Mr. W. W. UpDeflraff,
252) E- 25: a Street,
C< P vN!A
A MAN ADRIFT
A MAN ADRIFT
LEAVES FROM A NOMAD'S
HERBERT S. STONE fcf COMPANY
CHICAGO & NEW YORK
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
TO MY WIFE
I. FINDING A SHIP . I
II. MY FIRST VOYAGE I?
III. ADRIFT ......... 4O
IV. LIFE ON AN OYSTER-BOAT . . . 43
V. FIGHTING A NOR'-WESTER . . . . . 6
VI. ON TRAMP . 77
VII. BILLY . . 8l
VIII. SHOVELLING 95
IX. AT SHAFT IQ . IO6
X. IN PRISON . .119
XL NO MONEY 144
XII. THROUGH THE ROCKIES ,152
XIII. MAXWELL . 172
XIV. SIMILAKAMEEN 19!
XV. THE CHILKATS 212
XVI. FROM VICTORIA TO NANAIMO .... 223
XVII. WITH THE INDIANS 234
XVIII. A NEW PHASE 245
XIX. EARNING THIRTY DOLLARS 262
XX. LOUNGING THROUGH SUNSHINE .... 277
XXI. OPERATIC FORAGERS .... . 298
XXII. HOW I "RAN PROPS." ...... 308
XXIII. THE BOWERY 319
XXIV. NO PLACE TO SLEEP .,.., 330
A MAN ADRIFT
I. FINDING A SHIP
I WAS in Liverpool, with just a shilling in
my pocket, wondering vaguely as to what
I would do. It was in the beginning of
January, and the day, though cold, was
pleasant and bright. The clouds sailed
along so beautifully, and looking up into
them made me think of the strange lands
I would like to visit. I was young and
eager to see things. Here I was in
Liverpool the key to the whole world.
Surely I would find a ship to take me
somewhere anywhere. There were
thousands of them lying in the docks.
I had walked miles and miles that day,
looking at them, and occasionally asking
to be taken in one of them. But the
mates shook their heads when I told
2 A Man Adrift
them that I had never been to sea
before. They wanted men who knew
the work, they said. I was only a raw
greenhorn, who would be in the way !
But still I felt that I would go some-
how. Some chance or another would
turn up. I had never seen ships before
the morning of that day. But I had
thought and dreamed of them ever since
I was a lad. And now they seemed so
beautiful to me, just like the pictures I
had of them in my mind. They looked
so calm and strange; their tall, straight
masts and their furled sails and rigging
looked so fit and beautiful. They had a
curious air of travel and great distances.
You felt that they had come from places
a long way off, and that they were going to
places a long way off. About them was
something magical, fine, and strange.
I was without friends and alone, but
before me was the big, mysterious world.
What it held for me I could not tell, and
I hardly cared. My great desire was to
see and feel and experience to meet new
and strange phases. To live is a fine and
Finding a Ship 3
brave thing, even if you have neither a
penny in your pocket nor a home nor
friends. It is only the weakling and the
coward who is afraid of life.
The day wore on. And the red of the
sun lay upon the broad Mersey, glowing
up and throwing into odd relief the cross-
ing boats. Soon the river was full of
swiftly - rushing lights. Whistles and
horns were blowing. I stood and
watched till darkness had fully settled
down. The life of the river was full of
charm and mystery. Where were the
vessels going, and what did they hold,
and who commanded them ? Might not
that big, slow-moving steamer yonder-
full of lights that loomed calmly along,
be going to the far-away Indies, or to
China, or to Australia? And the sailing
ship over there, that was being towed
along by a tug-boat? Perhaps it was
going round Cape Horn, or around the
Cape of Good Hope, where tossed the
Phantom Ship the ship on which was
laid a curse till the Day of Judgment.
When this sailing ship got outside into
4 A Man Adrift
the open water her sails would spread
out like the wings of great, great birds.
And the winds would carry her along
over the great sea-waters. And at last
she would come to a port in some bright
land. And the sailors would then go
ashore and see things that were wonder-
ful and full of a curious beauty. My mind
was fuJJ of these thoughts as I looked
out upon the river.
At last I turned away and walked tip
towards the middle of the town. That
night I would find a cheap place to sleep,
and on the morrow I would look around
again, and try and find a ship. As I went
along a street I noticed a big coffee-house.
In I walked, and for threepence I got a
big mug of hot coffee and some thick
slices of bread and butter. Now I had
ninepence, and for sixpence of it I could
get a bed that night. During the day I
had noticed a lodging-house having a sign
in the window which read to the effect that
you could get a good bed there for six-
pence. I would sleep there that night,
and in the morning I would still have
Finding a Ship 5
threepence left for breakfast. Then I
would set out again in my search for
I was going along looking for the street
I wanted the street in which was the
lodging-house. It was a little hard to
find. Suddenly, as I was turning a
corner, a voice shouted out, "Hello!"
I wheeled round and looked. A man
was standing in front of me. " Come
along/ 1 said he. " I want to talk to you."
I hesitated a little ; and then I went
on with him. After all I was strong and
vigorous, and I was not afraid of things.
I was well able to look out for myself.
The man seemed to be half drunk
His head was sunk down, his shoulders
were bent, and his gait was slow and
uncertain. " I could easily knock him
over, if he attempted anything," I thought
"Don't be afraid; I'm not going to do
anything to you," he said, as if reading
what was in my mind.
" I don't see how you could," was my
6 A Man Adrift
" Neither do I," he said, with a laugh,
as he looked me up and down. " But
that isn't the point." He paused for a
moment. "You want to go to sea!" he
" How do you know ? " I asked. We
had now come to a halt before a shop
window, and I looked full into his face.
It was a round face, with big, bleared
eyes. Not an inviting face. There was
something in it I couldn't understand. It
was the face of a man who holds things
back. "How do you know?" I asked
" Because I saw you down on the docks
to-day. I saw you go aboard a ship." I
looked at him in surprise. " If you want
to go to sea," he said, slowly, " I can put
you in the way of it. I can take you to
a boarding-house where they will keep
you till they find you a ship."
" But will they keep me without money ? "
I asked quickly, " for I have only nine-
pence. And will they be sure to find me
" They will," he answered. " And here's
Finding a Ship 7
another thing I have to tell you. It's
next to impossible for you to get a ship
here in Liverpool without you are taken
from a boarding-house. So the best
thing you can do is to come along with
me that is, if it's a ship you are looking
I thought for a little. " Well, I will go
with you," I said. " That is why I came
to Liverpool to get a ship. It's a
strange thing, though, that they have
places where they keep a man for
nothing, and then find him one."
"It isn't so strange as it looks to you,"
said the man, with a laugh. " But you
are green, you know, and you don't know
the ropes. If you want to know the
reason of it, it is because every man who
ships gets an advance note for two
pounds. This note isn't paid till the ship
is a few days out at sea. You give this
advance note to the boarding-house
master. He keeps you and finds you an
outfit, and after you are safely gone he
gets the money. Now, do you under-
8 A Man Adrift
I did. It was all clear enough. I was
lucky to fall so easily into the right way
of things, I thought. Here was all the
trouble taken right off my shoulders. I
was sure of getting away. But I was a
little puzzled, however, as to why a man
who had never been to sea before should
get an advance of two pounds. It struck
me that perhaps sailors were scarce. But
I thought it well not to inquire too
closely into things. One must not look
a gift-horse in the mouth.
We were going back in the direction
of the docks, and I was filled with joy
at the thought that soon I would be on
an outgoing vessel.
Suddenly the man stopped, and
pointed to a big public-house. " Let us
go over there and get a drink," he said.
" You tell me you have ninepence. In
that case you might as well treat me for
the trouble I'm taking on your account."
To this I assented, as it seemed a
reasonable request, and we went over
to the public-house, where my guide re-
freshed himself with "three of whisky,"
Finding a Ship 9
while I took a glass of beer. The whisky
seemed to warm his feelings towards me,
and he asked me a lot of questions about
myself. But I had little to tell him, for
my life so far had been most unevent-
ful. It had been dull and grey, like the
town I had come from. The last place
at which I had worked was a mechanic's
shop, and I still wore my rust-stained
slop and overalls. I had a woollen scarf
round my neck, and wore a flat, greasy,
peaked cap. I was just a young work-
man who was going out into the world to
seek his fortune.
After we left the public-house he let
some light into the mystery of a man
being able to get an advance note of two
pounds who had never been to sea before.
Ships could not leave port without a
certain complement of hands, he told me.
The number was regulated by the tonnage
of the vessel. And on the day of sailing
there were usually one or two hands short
It was then that the boarding-house
master came forward with men he had
picked up anyhow. Even though the men
io A Man Adrift
were not sailors, the law was complied
with, and the ship was free to go. My
guide was a " runner " for a boarding-house.
We turned down a narrow street which
ran into the Docks. " Murphy's board-
ing-house is over there," said the man,
pointing. We walked across the road to
it, and he gave three knocks on the door.
A girl let us in without saying a word.
" Is Murphy in ?" he asked her. She did
not reply, but pointed to a door at the
end of a passage. He walked to it, and
pushed it open, bidding me follow him.
The room we entered was rather a large
one, and there were four men in it sitting
before a big fire. An oil lamp stood on
the mantel, throwing out a small light.
One of the men rose up and turned round.
" Murphy," said my guide, addressing him,
" here's a man for you." Murphy looked
at me with no particular expression in his
eyes, and said, " All right, let him sit
down." Then he turned towards the fire
again. He was a man about fifty, with
a dark beard and a pale, hard-looking face.
My guide left us, after shaking hands
Finding a Ship n
with me, and I began quietly to study
the other men. They were evidently in
something like the same circumstances
as myself. They were silent when I
came in, and they remained silent. It
was a strange scene. One would have
thought that the men were waiting to be
led out to undergo some awful experience.
There was an air of subdued, sad expec-
tancy about them. And for the first time
that day I began to feel depressed. The
travel-pictures in my mind became dulled.
Perhaps, after all, I had made a mistake
in trying to go out into the world ! And
doubts began to assail me. Was this the
right way to go about getting a ship ?
Wouldn't it have been better to have kept
on asking the mates for a berth myself?
All at once Murphy got up and left
us without saying a word. And then we
gradually began to talk. Soon I found
that my first surmise was right. The
men I was amongst were not sailors.
They were simply working-men who
wanted to get out to other parts of the
world. This was the only way they could
12 A Man Adrift
manage it, for they had no money. One
of them, a young fellow from the country,
spoke of the difficulties of getting work
in England. He hardly liked the idea of
facing the ocean. He had heard that
sailoring was a hard life that men were
often struck and ill-used. But there was
nothing else for it. And the others
talked in a like strain. Times were hard :
but the real reason they were here was
because they were impelled to move by
the wandering instinct that is more or
less strong in every human being an
instinct inherited from a far, dim past,
when men wandered over the face of the
earth as hunters. Living through the
dull grind of monotonous labour had
quickened it, and brought it to the full
in the men with whom I was now talking.
To work day after day, month after
month, and year after year in the same
place and at the same thing is madden-
ing. A man either becomes a clod or
dangerously thoughtful. And when I
began to think of the work I had been
doing for the last four years, my spirits
Finding a Ship 13
rose again. I was glad to be on the eve
of any change, however hard it might
turn out to be. I was willing to dare or
go through anything. And the pictures
and dreams of the morning when I was
going from ship to ship came back to
me. Things would turn out all right,
Murphy came back after an hour or
so, and showed the four of us up to the
room where we were to pass the night.
There were some sacks filled with straw
for us to lie on, but there were no
blankets. We had to make the best of
it by putting off our coats and covering
ourselves up with them as well as we
could. The night was very cold, but I
hardly minded it much. I was thinking
of what might happen on the morrow.
When we came down in the morning
we got some hot coffee, and a two-pound
loaf of bread was divided amongst us.
Then we sat and talked till the middle
of the day. At about one o'clock Murphy
came in and beckoned to me. He was
a man who did not waste words, this
14 A Man Adrift
Murphy. He came at once to the point.
"Off with your slop and overalls," he
said. " You look too much like a
mechanic.' 1 I obeyed him. Then he
motioned for me to follow him out.
There was a sailor's bag lying at the
end of the passage. " Take it, and come
along," he said again. " Your outfit's in
it." I picked it up. It was very light
and easy to carry.
We were soon going along the docks.
It was a day like the day before bright
and clear. "The vessel I'm going to put
you on," said Murphy, "is going round
Cape Horn to Callao." He then let
me know it was a steamer, and he in-
structed me to tell the mate or the
purser to make the advance note out to
him when I signed as able seaman. He
gave me his full name on a piece of
paper, so that there would be no mistake.
I told him I didn't like to sign as an
able seaman, for I had never been to
sea before. But he informed me that if
I didn't sign as an A.B. I couldn't go
at all. "Besides, there's no sailorising
Finding a Ship 15
to be done aboard a steamer," he said
When we got to the steamer, however,
fate was against me. They had got a
man ten minutes before. So Murphy and
I trudged back again to the boarding-
But the next day I was luckier.
Murphy shipped me, along with two of
the others, on the John Gough, a big
steamer bound for Philadelphia. She
made the trip across in from twelve to
fourteen days. She carried freight and
some passengers. When we were aboard,
the bo'sun a stockily-built man with a
red face joked Murphy about his dry-
land sailors and the kind of outfit he
sent them to sea with. " What have you
put in their bags?" he asked. But
Murphy took it calmly. Such things had
been said to him before.
The articles were signed, Murphy had
gone ashore with the advance notes, and
I was lined up for muster with the rest
of the crew. We were dismissed after
the mate had inspected us, and I was
1 6 A Man Adrift
going aft for the fo'castle. Both ends
of the ship were the same to my bewil-
dered eye. A sailor stopped me. " That
way, Greeny," he said, pointing forward.
" Go on, you damned Paddy West, dry-
land sailor ! "
I looked at him, but said nothing.
Then I walked forward. I cared little
for what any of them said to me. I
would soon get to know my way about.
And I was happy. My dream was
realised. I was actually going. I had
found a ship!
II. MY FIRST VOYAGE
WE were running swiftly through the
smooth river. Liverpool was fading off
into the distance, and I was wondering
by what turn of chance I should ever see
it again. I had no desire to go back,
but the thought worked idly through my
mind as I turned and looked off over the
side of the great vessel. At this time I
was standing on the forward deck with
the sailors. We were grouped up in
front of the two bo'suns, who were por-
tioning us off into watches. It fell to
my lot to be told off for the first bo'sun's
watch the port watch. He was the red-
faced man who had joked Murphy about
the outfit he was sending me to sea with.
The outfit, however, was no joke as far
as I was concerned, for Murphy had put
1 8 A Man Adrift
neither oil-skins nor sea-boots into my
bag. Indeed, there was hardly anything
in it that was serviceable for the crossing
of the North Atlantic Ocean in mid-
winter. I did not know this at the
time, but a sailor informed me of it with
much scorn and epithet, as he critically
watched me unpacking my bag into my
bunk in the fo'castle. I was hardly
fascinated with his way of putting truths,
but I felt that the time was scarcely
ripe for objecting. Besides, I was so
filled with the thought of being actually
aboard a ship that what he said didn't
trouble me much.
It had just gone two bells in the first
dog-watch (five o'clock in the afternoon)
when the word came for us to shake
out the foresail. What shaking out the
foresail meant I had not the faintest
notion. But I got ready to do some-
thing or other. A couple of sailors
jumped up into the fore -shrouds and
climbed like cats up the rigging. I
paused a little, and then I too jumped
up into the shrouds, and was up alongside
My First Voyage 19
them in no time. Though I had never
been to sea, I was a good climber, and
I saw at a glance that at least there were
sure hand-holds and foot-holds about a
ship. It was rather unfortunate my going
up as I did, however, for it <made the
bo'sun and the rest of the watch think
that I knew my work as a sailor.
" Lay out on the yard there," said the
man to whom I was near in the rigging.
This puzzled me altogether. " Where?"
I asked. He swore, and asked me what
I meant by coming aloft when I didn't
know my duty. I did not reply to this,
but stopped where I was and watched.
By this time six or seven men had got
up, and were spreading themselves out
on the yard on both sides of the mast.
I now* grasped what was meant. The
idea was to loosen the close-furled sail.
Quickly I got out along the foot-rope
with the rest of them, and began to tug
at the rope that fastened down the sail
to the yard. " Pass the gasket," said the
fellow alongside me. Again I was
puzzled. "That thing in your hand," he
2O A Man Adrift
added with a grin. He meant the rope
I had been tugging at, which in the
meantime had been taken from round
the sail and passed from hand to hand
till it had reached me. I passed it to
him, and then we all got down on deck.
It was my first lesson in sailoring.
And as I stood on deck with the rest
of them I felt that I had emerged from
my first trial with at least some success.
Afterwards I found out that it was most
unusual for a " Paddy West " sailor to go
up aloft at all. Invariably he stuck to
the deck like wax.
At the end of the first dog-watch six
o'clock we went into the fo'castle to
have supper, and then I learned why it
was that a man such as myself was called
a "Paddy West" sailor. It seemed that
one Paddy West, of Liveroool, a boarding-
master, was notorious for shipping green
hands as able seamen. Hence the nick-
name. Murphy, who had shipped me,
was only one of the smaller fry of these
villainous boarding-masters. But Paddy
West had dignified the calling with his
My First Voyage 21
name. All sorts of shady and wonderful
stories were current concerning him. He
had sent "greenies" to sea with bags
filled with straw for an outfit and so on.
It was at supper in the fo'castle that
I began to realise that shipping as an
able seaman when you didn't know the
work might not turn out to be altogether
pleasant. I saw that the regular sailors
had a strong animus against the men
who did it. And there was a good reason
for this feeling. They had to do the
work of these useless men. The sailors
had not enough sense of the relation of
things to grasp the fact that the real
fault lay with the shipping companies.
They only saw and knew of men who
had come aboard under false pretences.
And, as they felt they were wronged, it
was only human for them to make it as
hot for these men as possible.
And they did so. One of them shoved
me aside when I reached forward to take
some food from the table. "Don't get
in a sailorman's way ! " he exclaimed,
roughly. I turned quickly round to him,
22 A Man Adrift
and would have got very much more in
his way, but the strangeness of the place
and surroundings had a sort of quietening
effect on me. Anyway, I could wait.
It seemed that the law of the fo'castle
was that the sailors should eat before the
The supper consisted of fresh boiled
beef, potatoes, soft bread and butter, and
biscuits and tea. There was enough for
everybody, for there was always plenty
of food on an Atlantic liner. It wasn't
the same as it was on a deep-water ship,
where you got nothing but your pound
and your pint. Here it was plenty for
After supper came yarns about all the
lands and all the waters of the world.
The talk was -the most interesting I had
ever heard. I listened breathlessly.
Here were men who had been every-
where, and my respect for them grew to
such a pitch that I almost forgot to think
about the sailor who had shoved me aside
roughly. They talked in such an easy
way about being in places thousands of
My First Voyage 23
miles apart. " When I was in Calcutta,"
one of them would say, and then the same
man would perhaps the next moment say :
" Yes, I shipped with him on a barque
out of 'Frisco." Or another fellow would
say, " He was combing the beach in
Honolulu when I came across him." The
whole world and its waters had been
covered by these few rough men in the
fo'castle. Listening to them filled me
with ambition to do likewise. At last I
felt that I had found my true vocation
to go on always wandering from place to
One of them suddenly noticed me
listening eagerly. " Look at the dry-land
sailor," he shouted, with a laugh. And
then came the yarns about Paddy West.
After eight bells I was out again with
the watch on deck. The ship was still
running smoothly. She had not yet got
out into the broken water.
The sensation of being on a great
steamship when she is running swiftly
through smooth water is magical. You
feel as if you were steadily flying through
24 A Man Adrift
space. There is neither jar, nor toss,
nor jerk. You hear nothing but the faint
rumble of the easily-working engines.
TOWARDS midnight we were out in the
broken water. We were meeting the
swells, and the vessel began to heave,
and the wind got up. Then the word
came for us to brace things up before
turning in at eight bells. So we went
round the ship, loosing the down-hauls,
and hauling each halyard or brace tight
in turn. The foremost man would slip
the halyard from off the belaying pin,
pay it out behind him, and, as four or
five of us grabbed it, he would give out
the shanty or song. We would haul as
we sang, and haul and haul till the bo'sun,
who stood off watching the sail, blew on
his pipe for us to stop. At this the
foremost man would spring forward and
bend up the halyard on to the belaying
pin. When everything was braced up,
I was told off with another man to go
My First Voyage 25
around the ship and coil down the sheets
Eight bells rang out ; the watch below
came up on deck to relieve us ; and we
went forward to the fo' castle. I was be-
ginning to feel sick. Sea-sickness had
not entered into my calculations when I
was looking for a ship in Liverpool. But
I fought hard against it. And when I got
to my bunk and lay flat on my back, I
began to feel better. I would soon get
over it, I thought.
The day had been a long one, and I
was very tired. I tried to think over all
that had happened, but I could not con-
nect one thing with another. A confused
jumble of pictures and happenings was
passing through my mind. Now Murphy
was bringing me aboard now I was
walking along the docks now I was
hauling on the halyards now I could see
the wideness and the far reach of the sea
the sea I had always dreamed of. The
stars were reflected in it. The soft moon-
light was shining upon it. How beautiful
and magical it looked, this sea ! And
26 A Man Adrift
then a face came near to mine, a curious,
I fell asleep.
Hardly was I asleep when a hand was
on my shoulder. " Turn out ! Turn out ! "
shouted a voice. " It's eight bells ! Turn
out ! " I slowly got up, and got into my
clothes as well as I could. The ship was
now heaving more than ever, and I
stumbled heavily against a stanchion.
My head was light, and when I took a
step it seemed as if my body had no
weight. But I managed to scramble on
deck somehow. Here I felt a little better
cold, raw salt air revived me. But when
I staggered aft with the rest of the watch,
I began to feel worse. When *I took a
step I could not feel my feet. I was
horribly sea-sick. The ship seemed to me
to be going all ways at once. I would
have given anything to have been able
to lie down in my bunk. But this was
not to be thought of in a man who had
shipped before the mast. I had signed
as an able seaman as one who was able
to steer, splice, box the compass, and do
My First Voyage 27
other shipmanlike things. And here was
I as useless as a log. The thought of it
added to my misery.
I was shown scant sympathy by my
mates on watch. They acted impatiently
and brutally towards me. And this was
hardly to be wondered at, for they had
to take upon themselves my share of the
work. I had come aboard under false
How I got through that watch I never
knew. I remember falling down, and one
of the men kicking me. I could not, of
course, do anything back, but I turned
round so as to see his face, and keep it
well in my mind. The moon at this time
was shining brightly. This man had
kicked me, but there was nothing for it
but to wait my time. There was no use
of repining, or, indeed, of saying any-
thing while I was powerless. And not
only was I powerless in body, but my
will was powerless, too. I felt myself
getting afraid. I began to be a
I was sick for two days and a half,
28 A Man Adrift
during which time I had to do my four
hours on and off with the rest of the
watch. All that time I could eat nothing,
and I got very weak indeed. The man
who kicked me was especially brutal.
Some time after that he struck me in the
face, blackening my eye. I could hardly
stand up at the time, but I looked him
steadily in the eyes, and said: "You
shouldn't hit a sick man. Besides, this
sick man will get well."
And gradually I got well. I believe
thinking of this man helped to cure me.
Whenever I saw him I smiled. When-
ever I met him I looked straight in his
face. And as I felt the power coming
back to my limbs I was filled with joy.
The time would soon come!
At about the sixth day out, when we
were nearly half way across the ocean, I
was thoroughly used to the motion of the
vessel, though, of course, I knew very
little of the work. Still, I was beginning
to be of use, for I was quick, and I could
haul powerfully on the halyards and
braces. The strong air of the ocean was
My First Voyage 29
putting a vigour of life into me such as
I had never felt before. It was a wonder-
ful sensation, after being shut up all one's
life in a dull, sodden, black town, to be
out in this vast open of moving waters.
It was fine to feel the clean, fresh, sharp
wind striking full into the face.
On the seventh day out I felt fit for
anything, and I thought the time had
now come for me to settle matters with
the sailor who had struck me when I was
sick. It was our watch below in the
fo'castle, and I noticed him standing near
his bunk. My eye was still sore and
black from the blow, and when I thought
of it I smiled to myself. I had him now.
He was there, and I would see what he
was made of. I looked carefully over
him, noting where and how I would hit
him. I never thought that he might get
the better of me. I just felt that I could
annihilate him. I would like to kill him
and pitch him overboard, I thought.
Even though a man did not know his
work, striking him when he was helpless
was no way to right things. And the
30 A Man Adrift
shame of the blow swept through me as
I walked up to him and said :
"You struck me when I was sick and
not able to do anything back. Now's
your time to strike me again."
The rest of the watch, who were sitting
about talking, looked at us, and became
quiet. Something was going to happen!
It was a rare thing for a green hand
to talk in such a way to a sailor. " And
you kicked me, too, when I was sick," I
said again to him, keeping my eye fixed
on his eye. " Come on. Don't be afraid."
I gave him a push with my open hand,
and backed quickly a couple of paces.
He said nothing, but came for me. I
backed again it was a big fo'castle and
then I sank myself down a little to the
left and reached out. It was a feint.
And as he followed over on that side, I
turned to the right like lightning jumped
and landed my fist heavily on the side
of his face. The ship chanced to be
lurching towards me at the instant I
struck, making the blow more effective.
He staggered against the side of a bunk
My First Voyage 31
and before he knew where he was I was
right close up to him, pounding him in
the face and ribs. The first blow had
knocked him stupid, and he was not able
to give me any return. Besides, I was
too quick for him.
And now he was down in a heap, his
face all over blood. I dragged him up
by the collar, and asked him if he had
had enough. He had ! Dropping him
again, I turned to the rest of the watch
who were all eyes and said quietly,
" I'll fight the best man in this watch."
There was no response.
AFTER all, there was not much real
sailoring to be done aboard this steamer.
The main work was to keep everything
clean, to holystone decks, polish brass
work, and keep the paint free from dust.
It is astonishing how dust collects at sea.
The steering was done by four quarter-
masters, and four men were selected for
the lookout. So for all practical purposes
32 A Man Adrift
I was as good a steamship sailor as any-
one else. I could push a holystone with
the best of them no great feat after all.
And I could haul strongly on halyards
and braces. Usually the sails were only
put on the vessel to keep her steady in
heavy weather, or when the wind was
blowing from the wrong quarter.
One night at twelve o'clock a short
hurricane came down upon us. I'll never
forget that night to the end of my life.
It suddenly became pitch black. The
moon and stars, which had been shining
clearly a moment before, were blotted
out. There was nothing for the watch
on deck to do but to grope slowly along
like blind men. And then the hurricane
dropped on us. It was as if the sea and
the heavens and the thunders and the
great ship suddenly became one in a
horrible, indescribable uproar. And the
wind came with such fury and force that
it drove sensation from the body and
thought from the brain. We could do
nothing but gasp and hold on to some-
thing with the death-clutch, and bend
My First Voyage 33
down our heads so as to get a chance to
breathe, for the force of the wind striking
a man in the face would choke him. And
if he let go what he was clutching on to,
he would be dashed down.
All this was going on in blind dark-
ness. I was gasping and shrinking and
clutching. The end of things had come !
Immense seas were sweeping over the
ship. I was so stunned that I did not
even feel fear. I was just a blind,
clutching thing, from which sensation
had been suddenly driven.
All at once the hurricane died down.
Its end was nearly as sudden as its be-
ginning. It had only lasted a few
minutes. And the stars and moon came
out again, shining clearly. But the seas
were with us the gigantic, sweeping,
awful seas. The hurricane had swept
out into the distance a flying, tre-
mendous, shapeless thing of destruction.
All through the next day we strained
through these terrible seas as if we
were following in the wake of the hurri-
cane. The forward-deck had become
34 A Man Adrift
most dangerous. One had to wait amid-
ships at the beginning of the main-deck
and watch for the instant when the ship
settled down and became steady. Then
was the time to make the dash along the
deck for the fo'castle. The ship only re-
mained steady for three or four seconds, and
if one waited too long the sea would again
be thundering over the deck. If a man were
caught in it, he would be swept overboard.
And once overboard, he could never be got
again. No boat could be sent after him.
I had the bad luck to be caught in
one of these seas. I had just come from
the cook's galley with a kid full of
potatoes and meat for the watch's
supper. I waited amidships at the main
deck for the vessel to steady herself
before I made my dash forward for
the fo'castle. As she steadied, I dashed
along the fore-deck, but I had hardly
got three-parts of the way when I
slipped down. I got up, but I slipped
again, and this time, before I could
recover myself, the sea was upon me.
Where the kid and potatoes and meat
My First Voyage 35
went to I don't know, but I was picked
up and swept against the foremast as
if I were a cork. I flung out my arms
and clutched the fore-halyard for my life.
And I twined my legs, too, around the
big, stiff rope. There I stuck. But
again a sea thundered over the deck.
It struck me, and washed me from my
clutch on the halyard as if I were but a
feather that was lying against it. The
awful force of the water did not strike
in a straight direction, but it seemed to
whirl in a sort of circle, spinning me
round and round like a top. Strangely
enough, I kept my senses, though I felt
that I must be overboard. The water
was boiling and fighting over and around
me, when suddenly I struck against some-
thing hard. Then the next instant I was
heaved up clear out of the water, and I
found, to my utter surprise, that I was
still on board. By a miracle I had been
swept into the lee scupper, and kept there
I don't know how. I crawled down into
the fo 'castle. I was glad to be alive.
Many a poor fellow has met his death
36 A Man Adrift
by being caught and carried overboard
in a heavy sea. Occasionally the sailors
used to tell of it in their watch below.
How poor Tom was carried off, and never
got again, in a big blow as they were
rounding the Horn, or how poor Bill
was gone overboard an hour before he
was missed at all ! There was not a
sailor in the fo'castle who had not an
actual first-hand knowledge of some
such sad experience. Some told of
chums who had gone out suddenly into
violent death. Lowering a boat for a
man was rarely ever of use in rough
weather, though a boat was always got
out if it were humanly possible. In the
winter time the North Atlantic, or the
Western Ocean, as the sailors called it,
was of all the oceans of the world the
most dangerous and ugly in this respect.
Squalls and short hurricanes were in-
cessantly springing up in it. And it was
so terribly cold. In fact, in the winter
time some sailors would not ship for a
trip across it at any price.
At last we were off the banks of New-
My First Voyage 37
foundland. The weather had moderated,
and the fogs which usually lie here in
the winter had lifted. It was a relief
to feel the vessel running with some-
thing like smoothness after its heaving
and stressing through the heavy weather.
It had grown much colder ; the halyards
and braces were bedded in ice. But I
did not mind that much, for one of the
sailors had given me some socks and
mittens ; and the bo'sun had given me
an old pea-jacket that was very warm.
My fight with the sailor had created a
favourable impression on my behalf. I
was green, they said, but still I must
have something in me, and in time I
would make a good sailor-man !
We first sighted land one morning at
sunrise. It came up on the horizon away
off on the port-bow. We were holy
stoning decks at the time, and one
of the sailors said to me : " There's
America ! " I looked at the low-lying,
dark line. The voyage would soon be
over now! The thought filled me with
joy, but with the joy was a tinge of regret
38 A Man Adrift
at leaving the ship. I was getting used
to it. It was so fine to feel the press
of the great, strong winds, to see the
vast, heaving stretch of the ocean. There
were times when it brought terror, but
still I loved it. It appealed to something
that was in my blood to some instinct I
had inherited. The great, free ocean !
And here was the land ! one of the
lands I had dreamed of when I was a
boy. It was becoming clearer and
clearer, this land that at first crept up
on the horizon as a faint, dark line.
It was cold, but the morning was most
beautiful. The sky was so blue and
clear, and the sun, which was well up
now, was shining with a searching,
northern softness. The strange, clear
beauty of the morning, and the sight of
the land off in the distance, brought to
me a moment of curious, intense feeling.
It was a higher and more acute feeling
than that of happiness. In it was sad-
ness and joy and everything. It was as
if I had suddenly realised in this scene
of ocean, air, and land all the longings
My First Voyage 39
and wishes of my life. I had come to
it through suffering. I was but a com-
mon hand working on the ship, but to
me came this glorious, strange moment.
The next day and the day after
that we ran along favoured with calm
weather. The voyage was nearing its
close. And soon the pilot came aboard,
and then in a few hours we were grind-
ing, grinding our way through the thick
floating ice of the Delaware River. Off
from the bank of the river stretched a
country that was winter-bound. It was
cold and hard-looking, this country, but
I was glad to see it. For who could tell
what it held in store for me?
And now we were tied up to the wharf.
We were in Philadelphia. The voyage
was over. Busy men were rushing about
shouting English in a curious flat accent.
The next morning I left the ship for
good. It was on a Sunday. And as I
walked through the streets of Philadel-
phia I felt strong and hopeful, though
I had not a penny in my pocket. A
new world was before me.
THE magic of a great town !
A man goes into it when he is hard up
and lonely and wearing shabby clothes,
and he is touched with the general move-
ment, and the ever-passing crowds and
the bright, tempting displays in the shop
windows, and the long, clean streets.
The curious, mighty magnetism of the
town possesses him. He has been off
in small, lonesome places, looking for
work, or he has been working his way
hither and thither, making a bare exist-
ence by the doing of stray, odd jobs. Or
he may have been going along over bare,
winding country roads that seemed to
go on without end for ever. He has
been so long communing with himself
that he feels the need of contact with
other human beings. He wishes to be
near people and to hear their voices, even
if he may not speak to them. The people
he has seen off from the town have been
but stray and passing, even as himself.
Lone ships that move on and on till they
are lost in the dread, mysterious distance.
Men who are adrift.
It may be that a man has come from
some foreign place where things have
gone hard with him. He is now ap-
proaching the great town of his native
land, and he is thrilled, for here at last
is something that is akin to him. Vague
though it be, this kinship has for him a
warmth and a sense of rest. The people
who knew him once may be dead or
gone, or may not know him. But still
there is for him the town. The town
that was here long, long before him ; the
town that will last long, long after he
has crumbled and gone to dust. The
town that is his town, even as it is the
town of him who is fine and great.
Or it may be that a man is one who
may not go back again to his native
place. Now he is approaching a strange
townbut still a town. He is glad to
get to it, even though he be penniless.
42 A Man Adrift
Even though he must face strangers.
How glad he will be to see the spires of
its churches arising in the distance!
How glad he will be to hear, far away,
the faint, faint sound of its mighty life.
It is far off, this town but he is coming
to it! He is coming to it.
And who knows what chance may do
for him ? Who knows what may happen
to him through the magic of circum-
stance ? He may, in a street, find a
purse of gold. Then he will go and
buy himself a good dinner, and new, fine
clothes. He will stretch himself in the
fulness of the pleasure of life. In the
life of the town ! Yes, give him the
town! The town where no one knows
him where no one knows of what he
has done where he may begin a new
life where fortune may await him. And >
he goes on with firm stride. Soon he will
see the spires arising in the distance.
The magic of a great town!
IV. LIFE ON AN OYSTER-BOAT
AFTER many days tramping I found my-
self in the city of Baltimore. Here I
shipped on an oyster-boat to dredge for
oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The
wages were fifteen dollars a month, and
one had to ship for a month at least.
And you were bound by the same laws
and rules that you would be bound by if
you shipped on a deep-water vessel that
was going to round the Horn "Cape
Stiff," as the sailors call it. You were
the captain's machine his slave. He
had power to strike or shoot you if he
thought it necessary.
I shipped on a small schooner, and
sailed down the bay.
On the way down to the dredging
grounds we had nothing to do but to
sail the schooner, which was an easy
44 A Man Adrift
task, as there were, all told, ten men
aboard. It took us two days to get
down, on account of head winds.
A word about the dredging outfit of our
schooner. She had two crab-winches
amidships on the port and starboard
sides for winding in the dredges when
they had filled with oysters. It took
four men to a winch. Fastened to a
stout, fifteen-fathom rope, a dredge lay
on either side near the gunwale. In
working time these were put in readi-
ness to be heaved overboard at a word
from the captain, who then steered the
boat The gunwales were cut away, and
rollers put on a level with the planking
of the deck, so as to allow the dredges
to pass easily. The dredge was trian-
gular in shape, and was simply a strong
iron frame with a steel chain bag pend-
ing from the large end. Across the
mouth of the bag was a steel bar, in
which was a row of long, sharp teeth.
These scraped in the oysters as the
dredge dragged over the bed. Each
man was armed with a " culling hammer,"
Life on an Oyster-Boat 45
a hammer with a long, narrow head and
a long shaft, which he used for breaking
off extra shells that were stuck to the
oysters, and for separating the oysters
from the loose shells when the contents
of the dredge were dumped on deck.
One day's work was much the same
About an hour before dawn, the cook,
who lived aft with the captain in the
cabin, would come forward to the
fo'castle, where we slept, huddled to-
gether like rats, and inform us that the
time had arrived for us to sally forth to
toil. Reluctantly and unjoyfully, we
would arise at the sound of the cook's
voice and put on our clothes that is,
if we had been warm enough the night
before to take them off. Blankets were
scarce. The captain didn't care whether
we froze to death or not. All he cared
for was to get work out of us.
After creeping shiveringly out of the
manhole and on to the deck, our first
job was to haul up the anchor and loose
the sails. We anchored every night in
46 A Man Adrift
any small bay or cove that came nearest
or handiest. Getting up the anchor was
always a terrible job, because of the raw,
damp winter wind which was usually
blowing before daylight.
"Breakfast!" the cook would shout,
and one by one we would file into the
cabin to eat.
Whilst breakfast, which usually con-
sisted of codfish-hash, bread, and coffee,
was being doled out in detail, the schooner
would be making all speed for the dredg-
ing ground. Arrived there, we would
get to our places at the winches.
" Heave ! " from the captain at the
wheel, and splash ! would go both dredges
simultaneously, as a man from either
side heaved them overboard. The speed
of the schooner checked considerably as
the dredges dragged over the oyster bed,
gradually filling with oysters, which were
scraped into the chain bags by the tooth-
"Wind!" the captain would command
when the dredges had passed over the
whole width of the bed.
Life on an Oyster-Boat 47
With a will the whole of us would
suddenly bend our strength upon the
handles of the winches, and wind with
all our might and main. During the
winding the schooner would be tossing
about like a feather and shipping seas.
It is well to remark for the benefit of
those who don't know that the short
choppy seas of a shallow bay are harder
to contend with than are the gigantic,
awful swells that are to be met with in
mid - ocean. Proportionately, there are
more ships lost in the shallow, choppy
waters of the North Sea than anywhere
Oh, the terror of that awful winding!
I'd sooner help to take in frozen sails in
a gale off Cape Horn. Every nerve,
muscle, and breath was strained to the
tightest possible tension. If a man slacked
up the least bit it was instantly felt by the
rest. All had to fuse their strength into
one desperate whole. The cold seas
washed us from head to foot, but in the
horrible strain we didn't notice it. Wind !
wind ! wind ! Would the internal strain
48 A Man Adrift
never cease ? It seemed as if every fibre
in a man were cracking. I had never
felt anything like it before nor have I
since, though I have done the hardest and
roughest sort of labouring.
Up! up! At last the necks of the
dredges appeared above the gunwale
rollers. Up ! up ! and they were on deck,
and their contents dumped out in a heap.
Then we fell on our knees and com-
menced to separate as quickly as pos-
sible the oysters from the loose shells,
flinging the oysters behind us to form a
pile. Any extra shells that were sticking
to them we broke off with our " culling
hammers." As soon as we had got all
the oysters out of the heap we quickly
shovelled the loose shells, the stones, and
the seaweed overboard. " Culling," as we
called the picking out of the oysters, was
a soft of rest after the terror of the wind-
ing. By the time we had got out all the
oysters, or, usually, a little before it, the
captain had put the boat about so as
to cross the oyster bed again and was
ready to give the word to heave the
Life on an Oyster-Boat 49
dredges overboard. Thus we never got a
real breathing spell.
Again would corr.e the terrible winding,
and again would come the culling.
This awful work would continue with-
out a break up to sundown, barring a few
moments we got to snatch a bite of food.
At sundown we made fast the dredges,
washed up the deck, and made for the
nearest cove or harbour. Arriving there,
we let go the anchor, and took in and
furled the sails. After that came supper,
and then we filed, wet, weary, and de-
jected, into the fo'castle. The day was
STILL, there were fine moments in the
life, as there are fine moments in all
lives, however sad or hard they may be.
It was fine to stand on the foredeck of
the little schooner and feel her rushing
towards the harbour when our day's work
was done. It gave one a sense of rest, a
sense of peace. The jib of the schooner
50 A Man Adrift
stood out like the wing of a giant bat.
I used to think and wonder about many
things then. I used to wonder how long
I would be a dredger. Though the life
was hard, still in a sort of a way it ap-
pealed to me. Being faced with grim,
iron facts has a charm of its own.
The dredgers had a saying that if you
ever once got the dredging-mud on you
you would always come back to it again.
And, indeed, there were fellows who had
been at it years and years. At the be-
ginning of every oyster season they would
turn up in Baltimore, and greet each
other, and compare notes as to what they
had been doing since the last season.
Often there were black tragedies in
the life. Bodies of men were found
floating in the Bay. They had been
murdered and pitched overboard by the
captains and mates.
As a rule, the captains were a lot
of brutal bullies. If a man didn't have
the fighting instinct strong in him he
was very apt to get knocked about If
you sailed down the Bay with some
Life on an Oyster-Boat 51
captains you had to be ready to go
the whole length of the rope. You
had to be ready to out with your
sheath-knife and give the whole blade
of it into the mate or captain who
offered to strike you. In no other
way could you keep up your style as
a man. Fighting back with your fists
wouldn't be worth a rap. You would
be knocked flat with the butt of a
revolver, and like enough get the
life kicked out of you. Some captains
used to have loaded revolvers lying
within grasp while the men were
actually working over the oyster bed.
There were laws, to be sure, against
the ill-using and killing of men, but
the laws didn't work.
A word as to the way we used to
get our food. First the captain and
the mate would eat. They, of course,
would have clean plates and clean knives
and forks. When they had finished eat-
ing, two of the men would be called in.
and the cook would ladle out the food
for them on to the plates that the
52 A Man Adrift
captain and the mate had just used.
When these men had finished, two
others would be called in ; and so on,
till every one on board had eaten.
During the whole course of the meal
the two plates and the knives and forks
would not be washed. You had to eat
from the dirty plate of another man, or
two other men, or four other men, as
the case may be. If you were out of
favour with the captain, you were kept
till the last. The idea was to take up
as little time as possible in eating, and
to save the cook trouble.
I remember getting into a row over
this custom on one boat I was on. The
cook was called Scotty. He was a mean-
looking little sailor man, with a scarred
face, and hard eyes. He was the captain's
toady. But for all that, he was a stout,
hard little block of a fellow, who would
fight till he dropped. For some reason or
another, he didn't like me, and I didn't
like him. We used to scowl at each other
now and then. One morning I came aft
into the cabin for breakfast I believe I
Life on an Oyster-Boat 53
was one of the last two men and sud-
denly a sense of revolt filled me at the
sight of the dirty plate I had to eat off.
Why should I be a dog any more, I
thought ? Why shouldn't I have a clean
plate like a man? I turned to Scotty,
who stood scowling at me, and I asked
him roughly why he didn't give me a
clean plate. Scotty was so surprised at
my asking this that the scowl left his
face. He was dumfounded. It was as
if a dog had spoken. Scotty lived aft
with the captain in the cabin, while I
was only an' ordinary dredger, who lived
forward in the forepeak. The cheek of
my asking for a clean plate was some-
thing unspeakable. And rage took the
place of surprise. He swore at me
horribly. He would show me, he said,
and he raised his fist to strike me. He
knew he would have the captain and the
mate at his back. Besides, to tell the
truth, he was a plucky little fellow. But
I had had enough of the whole thing. I
determined to take chances if necessary
on getting a long drop and a scragging
54 A Man Adrift
rope. If I fought I'd have to go to the
whole hog. The chances were I'd get
shot. If I killed anyone, there was no
chance at all about it. I'd get hung.
But my blood was up.
As Scotty raised his fist to strike me,
I rose suddenly and let him have a
swinging blow full in the mouth. His
head struck against the bulking of the
cabin. And I rained half-arm punches
on his face till it was a mass of blood.
He fought me as well as he could, but
I was a much bigger and stronger man.
He hadn't the ghost of a* show. And
all the time I was punching him I felt
I was fighting with a rope round my
neck, and when that's the case a man
might as well go in for a sheep as
for a lamb.
And the whole infernal degradation of
the life broke in on me like a lightning-
flash while I was fighting. I thought
I might as well end it. And I tried
to kill Scotty.
But he got away from me up the cabin
steps and on to the deck. He realised
Life on an Oyster-Boat 55
that he was in danger of his life, and
the animal instinct to save himself came
uppermost in him. The fight had been
knocked out of him.
I followed him up on deck, where I
was faced with the captain and the mate.
But I was ready for them, too and
seeing that I was ready they came to
the conclusion that the easiest way out of
it was the best. The captain calmed
things down. I suppose it dawned upon
him that it was no joke doing a man up
who was ready to fight for all he was
worth. During the whole affair the men
my mates stood in a group forward.
They didn't offer to interfere.
After that I always got a clean plate.
The dredging season began in October
and ended in March the six coldest and
hardest months of the year. Once I was
on a sloop that was frozen up in solid
ice for nearly a month. Then we had a
good time. Nothing to do but to eat
and sleep and go ashore occasionally
for water. We were anchored about a
hundred yards from the shore, and we
56 A Man Adrift
had cut a channel through the ice, so
as to get the little yawl backward and
forward. One afternoon another fellow
and myself got the yawl ashore, so as
to bring aboard a barrel of water and
some flour and bacon. It was freezing
very hard. We loaded up the yawl, and
began to work our way back to the sloop,
but when we had got about half way
we were blocked up. The loose ice float-
ing in the channel had become frozen
together. We worked for an hour, and
made hardly any headway. And one
hour reached into two hours, and two
hours into three hours. Then we saw
that perhaps we couldn't make the sloop
that night. So we thought it better to
make for the shore again. But in this
we were stopped, too. The loose ice
had frozen together behind us. Nor
could we land on the ice on either side
of us, for the reason that there were
large pieces of loose ice on both sides
of the yawl, and stepping on them would
mean falling into the water, which would
mean death. The lads on the sloop kept
Life on an Oyster-Boat 57
shouting to us from time to time to cheer
us up. But we were getting anxious.
If we had to stay in the yawl through
the night it would mean that we should
be frozen stiff by morning. And now
darkness and night had come upon us.
We worked on and on, smashing at the
ice with our oars. And after what seemed
to me an eternity the ice slowly began to
move. We fought it foot by foot along
the channel to the sloop. They had put
lights on the roof of the cabin, so that
the reflections would show us where to
strike at the ice. At last we got near
enough for them to throw us a rope,
which we made fast to the yawl, and
then, with the help of their tugging, we
got alongside the sloop. They pulled us
aboard, and gave us a big stiff drink of
whisky, which fixed us up all right. It
was midnight. It had taken us about
eight hours to go a hundred yards.
On Saturday nights we would go to
Cambridge a little town on the eastern
shore of the Bay and tie up till Monday
58 A Man Adrift
morning. Then we would get an advance
perhaps of a dollar apiece from the cap-
tain. Armed with this we would go up
into the town to have a good time. You
could buy a lot of whisky in Cambridge
for a dollar. And whisky is what we all
bought. In other words, we used to get
drunk. Then we used to fight with one
another, or fight with the police, if they
tried to interfere with us. We were
looked upon as the scourings of the
earth which, as a matter of fact, we
were. The dredgings of the earth. We
were a bad lot. But we weren't too bad
to do the beastly work of dredging. Yes,
we used to get drunk. And why not ?
It was the only thing left open for us.
We were a dirty, rough lot 'of uncouth
men, we dredgers.
Years and years have gone by since
that time, but the faces of the men, the
dredgers I knew, are still clear in my
memory. Aye, their hard, weather-worn
faces rise before me. Where are they
now? Where are they gone? Drudges
of a dredge. Where are they ? Nobody
Life on an Oyster-Boat 59
knows and nobody cares. Poor human
driftage! Dogs for everyone to throw a
stone at. I have an affection for them
all. My comrades in hardship and
misery. There is nothing brings men
so close together. Aye, I have a fond-
ness for them all. Even poor little
Scotty, whom I fought with, I would like
to see even him.
There was Dublin. A fine fellow was
Dublin. He was an Irishman a Dublin
man. Nobody knew his real name,
and nobody asked it. His town became
his sponsor. Indeed, many of us
dredgers had almost forgotten our real
names. My name was Reddy because
I had red hair. And there was Galway
Paddy, and Tom Conroy, the Connaught
man, and Belfast, whose town, too, had
become his sponsor, and lots of others.
One Saturday night, Galway Paddy
wanted to fight me. We were all of us
having a hilarious time, for the captain
and mate had gone ashore till Monday.
So the whisky was flowing, and we were
singing songs, and telling one another
60 A Man Adrift
where we had been and where we hadn't
been. All at once someone began to
talk about fighting, and one word
brought on another, till at last Dublin
challenged Tom Conroy, the Connaught
man. They agreed to fight on the
after deck. It was a dark night, and
one of us stood on the roof of the cabin
holding a lantern so that the men could
see to punch each other. Dublin was
a good man to fight, but on this occasion
he was too drunk, and the Connaught
man knocked him out in short order.
I stood on the wharf the boat was
made fast to a big pile and cheered
on Dublin, who was my particular friend.
When he got knocked out, Gal way
Paddy, who was backing up the Con-
naught man, challenged me to fight.
I liked Paddy, and having no reasons
to quarrel with him, I declined with
thanks. I used to make it a rule never
to fight without a reason. But he
persisted, and finally he made a rush for
me from the deck. I was just getting
ready much against my will to let
Life on an Oyster-Boat 61
him have a hard left-and-right, when,
to my intense surprise, the indomitable
Patrick suddenly disappeared. It was
dark, and I couldn't make out where he
had got to till I heard a voice down be-
neath me spluttering out : " Reddy !
Pull me up! I'm dhrownin'!" It was
poor Paddy. As he was making the drive
for me he stepped on nothing, between
the boat and the wharf, and the first
thing he knew was the finding of him-
self in the icy cold water. I yanked
Paddy up. It was a good job I was sober
enough, for there was nothing for him
to grab at, and no room for him to swim.
He would have been drowned, sure
enough. This stopped the fighting.
But Dublin, I often think of him. He
was a fing type of man, though he was
but a rough hulk of a dredger a mag-
netic, able man, who never had had the
ghost of a chance in this big world. And
right here I would like to say a word
concerning labouring men. It is said
that they do not think. This is not
true. I, who have been a labouring
6 2 A Man Adrift
man, bear witness to the fact that, in
the main, men who are rough and
illiterate have more vigour of thought
and imagination than the men who
have received educational advantages,
and who are alleged to be intellectual.
I mean that they have more genuine
mind-power. The labourer is faced with
grim, iron facts, and his judgment
whatever its scope is evolved from a
first-hand experience of actual life.
Poor Dublin! He was drowned. He
was lost at night in one of the sudden
squalls that come up in the winter time
in the Chesapeake Bay. He was scull-
ing a little yawl to the schooner he be-
longed to. The squall struck the yawl
and capsized her, and Dublin died
fighting in the cold waters. God rest
him ! He was a brave, fine man, though
he did get drunk, and though he did
fight, and though he had been in' prison
often and often. He would give the
last cent he had to a stranger if the
stranger needed it. He was sympa-
thetic and noble, and, above all, brave.
Life on an Oyster-Boat 63
He was my pal my friend. There was
something fine in the expression of his
face. He had blue eyes and fair hair,
and he was a middle-sized man of a power-
ful build. I never knew his real name.
Everyone liked him. Dredger though
he was, tramp though he was, though
he had known the inside of prisons, I
am proud of having known him, of
having taken his hand, of having been
V. FIGHTING A NOR'-WESTER
WE hauled in our dredges, and headed
for Black Walnut Harbour, which lay
off about seven miles to the north-west.
We had been dredging for oysters all
the morning. Our little schooner was not
more than twenty tons burthen, and there
were seven men of us aboard, all told.
The weather had begun to look ugly,
and the captain thought we might as
well be getting in to harbour. All the
morning there had been a nasty swell
rolling, and now and then smartish
spells of wind. We thought that, likely
enough, we would be able to weather
it out till sunset. But white caps began
to show on the waves, and far off on the
north-west the sky was gradually darkening.
We were in for a nor'-wester, sure
enough, and a nor'-wester always means
business. It was near the end of the
Fighting a Nor'-wester 65
month of December in the shallow, dan-
gerous waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Suddenly, as I was coiling the dredge
rope round the neck of the starboard
dredge, the nor'-wester smashed down
on us. The jib bellied out, and strained
as if she would break away. I rushed
forward to ease the sheet. We were in
it. Right in a whirl of flying, cutting
spray, wind-gusts, and claps of thunder.
It was dark now, and the tops of the
waves looked like the edges of big, tear-
ing flames as the streaks of lightning
flashed on them. We were shipping
The harbour we were making for lay
off right dead in the eye of the wind,
and, in fact, was no harbour at all for a
nor'-wester, but there was no other place
for us to make for. It was Hobson's
choice. Go in or stay out. Besides,
there was a small bend in it to the west
right over at the end. If we could make
this we would be sheltered a good deal.
Beating up in the eye of the wind
meant making very short tacks with
66 A Man Adrift
everything close reefed and the sheets
hauled down flat. We took the foresail
in altogether. Then we worked slowly
up with the jib and short mainsail. It
was hard, cold work. The frost numbed
my fingers even through the thick mittens
By this time it had lightened up again,
but the gale broke along harder than
ever. The captain was at the wheel, with
the lappets of his sou'-wester tied down
over his ears. His brother stood by him.
Victor was forward tending the jib sheet.
Jack and I were amidships hanging on
to the mainsail halyards. The schooner
was labouring terribly, and it looked
as if she might swamp. If a big sea
were to bear down upon her before she
had recovered from the sea before,
the business would be done, and we
would be fighting for our lives in the
cold waters. We would struggle a little
and die like freezing, drowning rats.
She was of the wrong shape and of too
small a tonnage to be a good, heavy-
weather boat. In a gale of wind there
Fighting a Nor'-wester 67
is nothing like having plenty of tonnage
After a long and hard time we beat
our way up to the edge of the harbour.
How we managed it I don't know. It
was one continuous, desperate fight with
big, chopping seas and a wind that cut
you and wrenched you and stung you
to the bone at the same time. All of us
were drenched through and deadly cold.
Only for Frank, the cook, managing to
make us some coffee we would never
have been able to do anything. Hot
coffee, mixed with whisky, is a good
drink or a tight place.
Sloops and schooners were straining
and tugging at their anchors inside the
harbour. They had been caught sud-
denly, as we were caught, and had no
time to make for a better harbour from
Now we were in and close up to the
bend. If we could make our way up
it would be all right. But we couldn't.
The wind was so strong that we were
not able to make the very short tack
68 A Man Adrift
necessary to get in. So we had to let
our anchors go right where we were.
The minute they chocked the schooner
up we began to pay out all the chain
we could afford. In heavy weather the
more chain there is out to the anchor
the better chance has it of holding.
For a while we seemed to be all right.
But all at once our anchors began, to drag.
They were too light. This had been the
chief reason for our trying to make the
bend. The other boats in the harbour
were holding their own, but they evi-
dently had much heavier anchors com-
pared with their size than we had.
Drag ! Crunch ! Drag ! There was no-
thing for us to do but to let the anchors
go altogether. We fixed buoys on to the
chains before we cast them off, so that
we could find them afterwards, and then
we turned and made for the mouth of
the harbour again. There was nothing
for it but to run out into the nor'-wester
and take our chances till the gale wore
itself down. It was like running into
Fighting a Nor'-wester 69
Right near the edge of the harbour we
collided with a big schooner swinging at
anchor. Both of us suffered. She had
part of her bowsprit wrenched off, and
our fore-shrouds were torn away on the
port side. For a few seconds the boats
closed and seemed to grapple together.
At this point the German who belonged
to our crew got on to the big schooner to
help to push our boat off. In a minute
we were free of her and rushing on before
the gale, but when we looked round for
the German he was gone. He had
stopped aboard the big schooner.
We could hardly blame him, however,
for our game had too many chances of
losing in it. What we were going to do
was not very clear. The object of going
out again after we had lost our anchors
was to save the boat. We were staking
our lives for it.
And it looked as if we were going to
lose them. No one could tell what
would come from one minute to another.
We might be swamped or something
might give way.
yo A Man Adrift
And now an accident happened.
The wooden jib-traveller broke away
all at once, and Victor, who was stand-
ing on it, was flung overboard. He had
been jamming the jib sheet to leeward
with his foot. The big iron ring at the
bottom of the sheet, which ran along the
traveller, had caught in the middle of
it, and the traveller had suddenly
smashed upwards through the force of
the wind on the jib.
I saw Victor flying up in the air as
clean as if he had been shot out of a
gun. I rushed forward and flung over
the end of a rope, but I could see no-
thing of him. The sea had swallowed
him right up. It is awful to see a man
go to death in such a way. We all
shouted. The captain flung out the only
life-buoy we had. Lowering the little
yawl that hung astern would have been
worse than useless. It would have lived
no more than a few seconds in the sea
that was running. We could do nothing.
The jib was flapping viciously. The
first thing to do was to let it down with
Fighting a Nor'-wester 71
a run, which I did. Then I thought I
heard a voice coming from somewhere
forward. I turned my head, and I heard
it again. And then I worked my way
slowly up to the bowsprit. The schooner
was tossing about now more than ever, be-
cause of there being no jib to steady her.
I looked overboard, and I saw Victor.
He was down in the water right under
the bow of the boat, clinging to the bob-
stay. I just reached down, caught him
by the scruff of the neck, and yanked
him aboard. A stream of blood was
running down his face. A splinter from
the traveller had struck him. We were
glad to have him safe aboard again, but
we didn't have time to tell him so.
There was too much to be done. The
reason for his escape from death was
simple. He had been flung overboard
in the direction that the boat was going,
and she had drifted right on to him.
He was all right again, however, as soon
as he got his head tied up, and had had
a drink of hot coffee. Then he fought
along with the rest of us.
j2 A Man Adrift
We tried to rig up a sort of traveller
for the jib with blocks and lashings, but
it was no use. It was blowing too hard.
And all the while the schooner was
floundering and shipping seas. Then,
as nothing could be done with the jib,
Jack and I crawled out on each side of
the bowsprit and tied it down. How we
stuck on the foot-ropes I don't know.
It was the ugliest job men ever tackled.
You had to stick for all you were worth,
or you were gone. The bowsprit would
bury itself right down in the water rise
and bury itself again. As I was cau-
tiously and slowly tying a knot I would
suddenly find my head a foot under
water. I would gulp, and stick like iron,
and slowly I would find myself lifted
up again. It was one hand for yourself
and the other for the boat. But at last
we had it finished, and we got inboard.
The next thing to do was to raise the
foresail, reef it as close down as we
could, and raise the peak of it a little.
Our idea was to try and make it take the
place of the jib by giving more sheet to
Fighting a Nor'-wester 73
it than we gave to the mainsail. In the
end we were successful ; but we had a
fearful job reefing it, for our hands were
numbed with cold. Frank, the cook, was
standing next to me helping to reef, and
I saw him tie a grannie knot. A grannie
knot slips when a strain comes upon it,
and knots that slip on a boat may mean
I swore hard at Frank as I undid and
retied the knot myself. He shuddered,
and said, " Don't swear at a time like
this. We may never touch land again."
Frank evidently thought it was more
dangerous to swear than to tie an unsafe
There was nothing to do after this but
to run before the gale and hope for the
best. I pulled off my big sea boots so
as to have whatever chance there was of
swimming when the time came. I might
as well have kept them on though, for
all the chance I would have had, for the
shore was fifteen or twenty miles away.
Besides, even if a man could keep his
head in the big seas he would be frozen
74 A Man Adrift
up in no time. But in a tight time one
instinctively does all one can. The long,
soaked boots made my feet cold anyway.
The captain's brother began to cry, but
one couldn't blame him, for he was little
more than a boy.
But I must say the captain was
game. He stuck to the wheel for
hour after hour, his face set and calm.
He was a man from the eastern part
The night was upon us now, and the
moon came out clear and bright. But
the gale broke on as hard as ever. Still,
being able to see the lie of the bay shore
was a good thing.
It was this that saved us in the en.d,
for the captain saw, away off, an inlet
that he knew. We had run farther
from Black Walnut Harbour than we
thought. The beach of this inlet was
sloping and of sand. The thing was
to get into it and run the schooner
We got into the inlet all right, and
before we knew where we were we were
Fighting a Nor'-wester 75
safe and sound on the sand. The slope
was so gradual that we could hardly feel
ourselves beaching. And the gale roared
and roared. But we were snug and out
We stayed there two days. And when
the nor'-wester had worn itself out, and
everything was calm and quiet again, we
pulled ourselves off the beach at high tide.
We had weathered the nor'-wester. Then
we went back to Black Walnut Harbour
and picked up our anchors.
At last I grew tired of dredging. I
was as hard up as when I began. Labour
had brought me nothing but hardship and
degradation. I had worked the blood
and muscle out of my body to create
wealth for others. I had lived in the
midst of absolute filth in a place not fit
to kennel a dog in. If I hadn't been
a dangerous, fighting brute of a man I
would have been struck and ill-used into
the bargain. Aye, I- had worked my life
out to create wealth for others, and for
my reward I had neither a place to sleep
7 6 A Man Adrift
in nor a bite to eat. What was the use of
working at all, I thought? I got neither
reward nor respect.
So I faced about and became a
VI. ON TRAMP
To be penniless and on tramp Is a
curious experience. You care for no
one, and no one cares for you. Things
about you seem vague and elusive. You
are in a mental chaos. You are a link
dissevered from the human chain. And
you wander hardly knowing or caring
where you wander.
As you shuffle along people glance at
you as they pass. Scorn is in their eyes,
for you are a man without a home a man
without friends. You are dispirited, dirty,
and without self-respect. The aphorism
that the world owes every man a living
does not apply to you.
You haven't spirit enough to steal ; you
haven't continuity of mind enough to plan
a course of action. Your thoughts waver.
You will forget where and how you began
to think. Projects will come up before
78 A Man Adrift
you, and they will fade before you grasp
them. If you had force enough in you
you would hate everything and everybody.
You would feel hard, sharp resentment.
You would like to do murder, to rob, to
destroy. You would like to hold the
world in the hollow of your hand so that
you might crush it.
But you are impotent your pulse is
down you shuffle along.
Who you are or what you were matters
not. You may be a man with a past, you
may be a man with a future. You may
be one who has belonged to the topmost
class ; you may be a labourer, or a man
from out the filth of the slums, or a
dispirited low-down thief.
And you beg for bread. You knock at
the doors of houses and ask for something
to eat, or you ask alms of stray, passing
men. It may have been that at one time
in your life you would have thought it
impossible for you to beg. You would
have shuddered at the bare idea. How
shameful ! You would have thought that
death would be preferable. If a man had
On Tramp 79
said that you would come to this you
would have struck him in the face. Per-
haps when you did think of able-bodied
men begging you thought of them as
wretches hardly worth the powder and
ball it would take to kill them.
You feel sad.
Still there are times when a fine moment
comes to you. It may be that you will
feel the curious sense of power that be-
longs to utter loneliness. It may be that
you will feel the sense of freedom that
comes from a total lack of responsibility.
No one is dependent upon you. No one
is waiting for you. If people have a con-
tempt for you, at least they let you alone.
And this is something.
You are thrown in upon yourself. For
the first time in your life, perhaps, you
really begin to know who and what you
are. You are interested in the strange
unfoldings of yourself. You have dreams
and fancies and curious longings. A world
opens to you within yourself. And you
walk on and on, bearing with you a
wonderful dream world.
80 A Man Adrift
What matters to you the contempt of
people who move in grooves, who them-
selves fear the opinions of others ? After
all, they will die, even as you will die.
Yes, they will die in a day. They will
come to dust. For you the sun shines as
it shines for them. For you the water
flows as it flows for them. In common
with them you have the air to breathe.
In common with them you can see the
strange pictures in the clouds. In common
with them you can move and think and
see and hear.
In moments when these thoughts are
with you, you move along with a brisk
step you ask for bread without shame.
BILLY and I were partners. We tramped
along looking for work together ; we slept
in the same haystack together ; we whacked
up what little money we got for doing odd
jobs. When things were absolutely tight,
we shared the food that we begged from
the farmhouses we passed on the road.
Who Billy really was I never had the
least idea. Where he is now I have no
idea. He came suddenly into my life,
and went out of it in a like way. He
told me his name was Billy, and that was
the end and beginning of anything tangible
he had to say about himself. True, he
spoke now and then of his life in the past,
but only in a vague, distant sort of way
as if he were speaking more to himself
than to me.
We were just two outcasts who met by
8 a A Man Adrift
chance, and who stayed by each other
while circumstances permitted.
I saw him first as I was going along
the road to Baltimore. He was sitting
under a hedge on the roadside when I
noticed him a tired, sad-looking, bearded
man of about forty-five. His clothes were
old and worn, and covered with dust. On
the face of it, he was a tramp like myself.
His eyes were large and blue, and in them
was a curious look of mingled pathos and
resentment the look that marks the man
whose life has been a failure from the
" Hello, partner ! " I said, as I stopped
and looked at him. "Where are you
" Baltimore," he answered. There was
a pleasant ring in his voice.
" I'm going that way, too," I said.
We talked for a little while, and then
we started on our ,way together.
It was a beautiful afternoon in Sep-
tember. The leaves of the trees were
already beginning to turn to the rich
varied colours of the fall, or American
autumn. Though I had no idea where I
would sleep that night, I felt to the full
the joy of life. There was something so
vital and clear and sustaining in the air.
Off from the road were glades and forests
toned with curious and exquisite colours.
The clear cries of birds filled the air. I
felt glad as I stepped out freely along the
road. It was worth while being a name-
less and homeless tramp for the sake of
living and moving through a scene like
As we walked along Billy and I talked
together. He interested me very much
not so much because of what he had to
say, but because of himself. The man
After a little while I found out what
he was. This was as far as I ever got,
for I never found out who he was. Likely
enough he wished to forget it himself,
and I had no curiosity on that score. I
knew as much about him in the first half
hour as I ever knew.
He was an English gentleman who had
drifted away from his bearings, and come
84 A Man Adrift
down in the world just a piece of human
wreckage. He did not, of course, say
that he was a gentleman, but I saw it
almost at a glance. There was no mis-
taking it. About him was that fine,
curious, half-insolent air that air that
is called "manner." Hardship and the
humiliation of having to beg for his bread
had not robbed him of this.
We tramped on and on for hours
past cornfields and peach orchards and
forests. Now and then we saw in the
distances stretches of the shining, silver
waters of a bay. It was the Chesapeake
Bay. The memory of that strange after-
noon will always be with me. We talked
of many things, the drift of which has
since passed from me.
At last, when the sun began to sink,
we came to a halt, and began to discuss
as to where we should pass the night.
Off over near a big farmhouse we sighted
a haystack, and we determined to wait
till it grew darker, and then to go and
climb up into it. We lay down near the
hedge, and when it was dark we crossed
the field cautiously to the haystack. We
were afraid of dogs hearing us and set-
ting up a - barking. We got there all
right, and we climbed up into the fresh,
clean hay. We had found a most de-
lightful bed a fragrant, refreshing bed,
after the tramp of the day.
The cool, clear stars were shining above
When morning came we got down out
of the haystack without being seen, and
made a detour so as to approach the farm-
house from the front. Our idea was to
ask the people there for breakfast. After
we had done a little work they gave us
breakfast. Then we started out again on
the main road. We could have got work
on the farm, but that hardly suited us,
as our object was to get to Baltimore.
Besides, the charm of tramping the road
was upon us. Moving along through the
changing open country was a much more
alluring prospect than sticking at hard
At the time I met Billy I was all but
an illiterate man being hardly able to
86 A Man Adrift
read and write. But still I had had a
wide experience of actual living, and knew
something about men. Thus I was able
to appreciate Billy at his full worth,
though I am afraid my appreciation was
of but little help to him. Of the two I
alone was the gainer. I could give him
nothing, whilst he gave me a great deal.
It is a curious thing to meet with and be
indebted to a man whose name even you
don't know. But such was the case.
It was Billy who first gave me the idea
of trying to educate myself. He did not
do so knowingly, however. It was rather
that I was struck with the great differ-
ence that lay between us. He had style ;
he knew things ; he could express him-
self easily and surely. Though he was
but a tramp like myself, still he had an
advantage over me. True, this advan-
tage had not been able to stop him from
coming down in the world. But I felt it
to be an advantage, nevertheless, and I
longed to possess it, for it seemed to me
that if I had it I would have a chance to
It was a curious look that Billy gave
me when I spoke of this to him. But he
volunteered to help me.
I chanced to have in my pocket a little
ten-cent dictionary. How or where I got
it, I forget now. It was dog-eared and
grimy, but it answered the purpose.
My first task was to learn to pronounce
the big words in it properly. Billy would
tell me the right pronunciation, and I
would repeat and repeat it after him till
at last I got it.
And so it went as we slowly tramped on
our way to Baltimore. Billy took the
greatest pains to teach me as much as
possible. When I made a slip in speak-
ing he would tell me of it and explain to
me why it was a slip.
He went into the history of the world
and of the nations of the world. He
told me of the mysterious origins and
vagaries of religion. He told me how
the geologists had wrested from the earth
and rocks their dim secrets.
These days were for me wonderful
A Man Adrift
We worked now and then at cutting
corn or picking peaches. We wanted to
have a little money by us when we got
to Baltimore. The farmer would let us
sleep at night in the barn. Sleeping on
a warm night in a great, roomy barn is
delightful. In the air is the cool fresh
smell of the earth and its produce. How
fine and refreshing is the smell of the
earth ! Why do people live in towns ?
At daybreak the farmer would come
and call us ; and we would get up, lave
our faces and hands in water, and go
out into the field or orchard. After
working an hour or so, we would come
back hungry to breakfast ; and then we
would work on to dinner-time, and
then on up to sunset. After sunset
we would have supper and go back to
I liked the odd days we worked in
the peach orchards best. The orchards
were filled with an exquisite aroma.
And the trees, with their green leaves
and delicately-coloured, full fruit, looked
so beautiful with the sun shining
through them. The farmer would allow
us to take as much of the fruit as we
wanted for ourselves.
At other times we would stop on
our way to bathe in a stream. Then
we would wash our clothes, spread
them out in the sun, and lie down and
wait for them to dry.
At last we were in Baltimore, a big
town of busy streets and wharves,
where lay ships of all descriptions. It
was so different from the peaceful
country, with its calm, glorious health.
Here was nothing but rush and hurry,
and unrest and foul air. Even the
waters of the bay looked soiled and
black from the wharves. I was sorry
to be in the town. I thought of the
pure air, and the clean, gliding stream-
waters. The forest and wide fresh
fields came up before me.
We had got into Baltimore the night
before. We had been tramping all
day and we were very tired, and all
the money we had between us was a
dollar and seventy-five cents. Billy
90 A Man Adrift
knew of a cheap lodging-house near
the Lightstreet Wharf, and we went
there. The keeper of it was a man
named Murray, who gave Billy a cordial
welcome. Billy had stayed in the lodg-
ing-house on and off for a long time.
Here one could get a bed for ten cents,
and a meal for fifteen cents. In the
house were two great rooms, or dormi-
tories, which held fifty beds each.
They were small, narrow beds stand-
ing in two long rows with a space of
about a foot and a half between them.
Every man slept with his clothes under
his pillow. If this precaution were not
taken one was apt to wake up and find
either his money if he had any or
part of his clothes gone.
Billy and I were lucky enough to pick
up some work on the wharf, for which
we were paid at the rate of twenty
cents an hour. The work was rather
hard unloading freight from a ship
but it was more interesting than labour-
ing work usually is.
During all this time Billy kept on
teaching me whenever he got a chance.
I got some books, amongst which was
a translation of Goethe's masterpiece,
Faust. At once I learned off by
heart the wonderful verses in the be-
ginning of the poem, where the arch-
angels address themselves to God. The
sublimeness of the thoughts and words
carried into my mind a great light. I
felt myself awakening and growing. I
began to see something beautiful even
in the squalor around me.
Soon I had committed to memory
nearly the whole of the great poem. I
would repeat parts of it aloud to Billy,
and he would explain to me the mean-
ing of certain passages.
One night in the lodging-house I
took Billy's part in a quarrel. A big,
muscular fellow from New York was
going to strike him. I interfered.
This man had been talking disparag-
ingly of England, and Billy had re-
sented it, for, like all Englishman, he
was proud of his country. I was not
92 A Man Adrift
much interested in the matter of hear-
ing England abused being of Irish
blood myself but I wasn't going to
see Billy knocked about. His quarrel
was my quarrel in fact, more than my
quarrel. I would have laid down my
life for Billy, the Englishman. Be-
sides, I saw that he would have no
earthly chance in a fight with the big
muscular American. Billy was not strong,
and he was rather slow in his movements,
not suitable at all for quick, rough
" Look here," I said to the American,
" you mustn't hit Billy. He's my partner."
" Won't I, by God ! " he exclaimed.
" No, you won't," I said again, quietly.
"You can't pick on him. I'm more
your size. I'll fight you."
Billy did not like me to interfere.
" I'll fight my own battles," he said. But
I took no notice. "Come on," I said to
the American. " Strip off, and let's see
what you can do."
I pulled off my coat and shirt, and
stood naked to the waist. Then I
tightened my belt. All the time I kept
my eye peeled. I was on the lookout
for a quick rush.
The American also got ready. The
other men stood off around us, making
We were just about to get to work
when Murray, the boss, came up into
the big room. This stopped the thing
at once. Murray was afraid of the
police. And to tell the truth, I was
rather glad of the interruption, as I
had strong doubts as to whether or
not I could polish off the big American.
Dear old Billy! "English Billy," as
they used to call him. Years after-
wards I was again in Baltimore, under
totally different circumstances. I called
at the common lodging-house to try and
get some tidings of him. I was no longer
a tramp. The world had grown easier
for me. I had changed.
Murray was still at the old lodging-
house. He was older and greyer. He
wondered who it was who was asking
94 A Man Adrift
him about this English Billy who used
to come and get a bed at his lodging-
house. I could see that he had not
the slightest idea as to who I was.
He could tell me nothing. Billy had
gone away years ago.
OF all the kinds of labouring work I
have ever tackled, shovelling is the most
trying and monotonous. It is work of
the sheer, unadulterated order. If dig-
nity goes with it as it is alleged to go
with all labouring work I can only
hazard the opinion that this dignity is
of the most diaphanous and hard-to-be-
perceived kind. It certainly escaped my
power of observation.
Fellows have asserted to me that the
navvy was really fond of his shovelling.
"Give him his pipe and his glass of beer
in the evening, and he goes back to his
work in the morning with joy." This
assertion has been made to me with vary-
ing degrees of emphasis, but truth com-
pels me to add that the fellow who so
asserted was not a navvy never had been
a navvy, and never was likely to be a
96 A Man Adrift
navvy. He was some leisured theoriser.
Some wordful person. And it has
always struck me that the ground upon
which he based his assertion was about
as solid and as easy to be seen as the
alleged dignity which forms a halo
around the art of shovelling and other
kindred arts. Indeed, the only thing
solid the assertion was based upon was
the solidness of ignorance.
I have been a navvy, and have neces-
sarily mixed with navvies a great deal,
and I must bear witness to the fact that I
have never heard one of them speak of
his work in other than tones of disgust.
Their eyes have been as blind as my
own in the matter of seeing where the
dignity came in.
My first essay at shovelling was in
Columbus, Ohio. I had got a job of
sniping on the railroad track. Sniping
is nearly analogous to plate-laying in
England. The difference is that the
work is harder, and the hours longer,
and the men are more bullied by the
bosses. I fear me that the proud British
workman gets a surprise of the most
unpleasant calibre when he tackles a job
in America. He has to do twice the
work for much about the same money
that is, when everything is considered.
But to my maiden experience in the
art of shovelling.
Myself and an old Irishman were given
a job together to load up cinders on to
flat cars. We worked side by side, and
the amount we shovelled, as compared
with each other, could, of course, be told
by the size of our respective heaps. The
old Irishman was of the genuine type of
labour - slave. His father and grand-
father had most likely been labourers
before him. It was in his blood. He
was like a poor, used-up old horse at
its last gasp, but still able to draw.
He was filled with a spirit of emulation,
was the old Irishman, as he worked
alongside of me. Here was I, a strong
young man, whilst he was a man who
was nearly at his end ! I could see that
he was thinking this as he bent himself
to his work. He was ould, but he would
98 A Man Adrift
show the boss how well he could shovel !
So he went at it as hard as he could.
There was no such spirit impelling
me. I worked with calmness and ease,
and rested now and then. The result
was that after some hours there was a
tremendous difference between our re-
spective piles. To use a comparison, the
old Irishman's pile looked like one of
the Himalayan Mountains, while mine
had the appearance of a hill of very
The boss came round, looked at the
piles, and exploded with wrath. He, too,
was an Irishman. " Look here," he
shouted. "Look at this poor ould man
ould enough to be your grandfather!
Look at his pile, and look at your pile!
Yez ought to be ashamed of yourself to
let an ould man bate ye!"
But I did not feel the sting of shame,
and I let my lack of feeling be known to
the boss. We had a sharp argument.
During it, the old man shovelled harder
than ever. A pleased look had come into
his face. It was his moment of triumph.
The fact of his out-shovelling a strong
young man and the boss noticing it was
balm of Gilead to him.
The next time I had a go at shovelling
I was in Cincinnati. A sewer was being
dug in one of the main streets, and I
was put on with some other men at
seven in the morning. The night before
I had wandered around the city, because
I had no money to get a bed. I was
hardly in a condition to begin work.
Still, there was no alternative. It was
either work or starve. Indeed, it was
work and starve, too, for when twelve
o'clock came lunch time I could get
no lunch. I could not get a sub from
the boss as a navvy could in England.
It must always be remembered that the
conditions surrounding labouring work
in the States are much more pitiless than
they are in England.
So there was nothing for it but to
work all day without anything to eat.
When we stopped at six in the evening
I was hopeless as to being able to con-
tinue at the work, but, as good fortune
ioo A Man Adrift
would have it, I was lucky enough to
be taken by one of the timberers to his
boarding-house. But for that I would
have lost the work, and in addition to it
my day's pay, for the contractor only
paid once a month, and I could not have
waited round for the sake of a dollar and
a half. I have often known men in
America to have to give up work because
they could neither get food nor shelter.
The shovelling in this sewer was very
hard work indeed. A system of " run-
ning " was in vogue there. There was a
man in each gang of shovellers who was
secretly paid a quarter of a dollar a day
more than the rest. He would work, of
course, as hard as he could, and anyone
in the gang who could not or would not
keep up with him was at once discharged.
Added to this, the sun was burning the
life out of one. I have seen poor, half-
starved men have to give up work in
less than an hour because the pace was
so killing. This sort of murder-work
gives the answer to the question as to
why there are so many tramps in the
United States. I was glad when the
end of the month came, and I was able
to draw what money was coming to me
and to go on my way.
Perhaps the hardest shovelling of all
is the shovelling of sand. I had an ex-
perience of this in British Columbia.
I worked there or four days unloading
sand-scows in the harbour of Vancouver.
The pay was thirty cents an hour a
rate of three dollars a day. After the
first day's work I was so tired that I felt
as if I could lie down and die. I had
a strained, sore feeling all over my body.
I was hardly able to eat my supper.
Right here I would like to explode the
fallacy to the effect that extreme intel-
lectual labour is more severe than extreme
manual labour. I have tried both, and
I must say that my verdict is, Give me
intellectual labour every time. It is
cleaner in the first place ; in the second
place there are no degrading conditions
surrounding it ; and, in the third place,
it is certainly less monotonous. Again,
the world attaches real dignity to in-
102 A Man Adrift
tellectual labour, while the dignity that is
attached to manual labour smacks too
much of the legendary and mythical.
The people who prate of the superior
exhaustive quality of brain labour are
invariably people who have not tried
both. They give forth their judgment
with all the confidence of ignorance. To
be just, however, I must admit that it
is a politic thing to let the navvy know
all about the hardships of intellectual
But let us go back to the art of
shovelling sand. The reason that sand
is so much harder work to shovel than
gravel or cinders, or coal or clay, is
because every time you sink your shovel
into the sand you get exactly the same
amount and weight upon it, and the
efforts you have to make in pitching it
off are absolutely uniform. Making the
same effort of strength through several
hours at a stretch is most tiring. The
muscles get no chance to rest or recover.
In the shovelling of clay or coal, or any-
thing that breaks up unevenly, the
efforts made in pitching vary with the
different weights and sizes that get upon
the shovel. Slight though this difference
may be, it still is enough to cause a
continuous relaxing and tightening of
the muscles. Thus the muscles get some
chance to rest and recover through the
variation of the efforts made. And at
the end of the day a man is nothing near
so tired as he would be after a day's
work at shovelling sand.
In Vancouver I got a job with a road-
making gang. I, with others, worked
up the soil so that the stones could be
laid. The soil was clay, and we shovelled
it into the carts, which were drawn off
by mules and dumped somewhere out-
side the town. We were paid at the
rate of two dollars and a half a day.
After working the first half day, I hit
upon a scheme for making the shovelling
easier. The clay was apt to stick, and
one had to jerk the shovel hard in the
pitching to get it off. This didn't suit
me a little bit. My sole aim when I was
navvying was to work as easily as I
IO4 A Man Adrift
possibly could without getting the sack.
Thus when I pitched, I did not give
the shovel the necessary jerk. The
result was that it was always half-filled
with clay. I only threw, therefore, half
a shovelful into the cart at every pitch.
I had, of course, a full shovel's weight
to swing each time, but I saved the
extra jerk. My method was decidedly
immoral, as far as regard for the interest
of the contractor was concerned, but it
certainly possessed the tangible merit of
being easier for myself. Shovelling
hardly develops a feeling for ethics.
After a time, a man who works at
shovelling will begin to find himself
getting muscle-bound. I mean that he
will find himself getting slow and stiff
and clumsy in his movements. The
reason for this is because a particular
set of muscles are developed out of all
proportion to the rest. The man who
has become muscle-bound will find, if
he ever gets into a fight, that he can
give but a bad account of himself. He
will be slow and awkward, and always
in the way of the other man's blows.
He may be much stronger than his
opponent, but he will be unable to strike
a blow that is anywhere near in pro-
portion to his strength. It grieves me
to have to say that my once-upon-a-time
comrade, the navvy, is the easiest man
going to beat in a fight. All you have
to do is to keep out from him. And
when you are prodding him for the good
of his health, see that he doesn't get
hold of you.
IX. AT SHAFT 19
IT was late in the afternoon when I got
a job at Shaft 19. The foreman, Tom
Connelly, told me to come on with the
night shift at seven o'clock, so I went
over to the shanty to wait for supper,
look round generally, and see which
bunk I would have to sleep in. The
bunks were arranged in the sleeping
shanty in something after the same way
that bunks are arranged in the fo'castle
of a ship. In each were two blankets
and a mattress.
I was glad when six o'clock came
supper-time for I had not yet broken
my fast that day, and I had walked up
from New York into the bargain a
distance of about eighteen miles.
A Chinaman stood outside the door
of the shanty where the meals were
served. He was pounding on a gong.
At Shaft 19 107
Men rushed from every direction from
the mouth of the shaft, where a load of
grimed navvies were pouring forth from
the up-cage, from the sleeping-shanty,
from all places around. They seemed to
spring up out of the ground. The idea
was to get to the first laying of the table.
Missing it would mean that you would
have to wait. I didn't miss it.
What a mob of us there was in the
shanty ! Eating and drinking and shout-
ing and laughing and talking. They were
a grimy mob, to be sure, but not a dirty
mob. There is a difference between
grime and dirt. The white races of the
earth were nearly all represented. You
heard English, French, German, and
Russian spoken and shouted all at once.
And other languages, too. It was a jolly,
noisy crowd. Nothing of the down-
trodden atmosphere about them. They
had the magnetism that comes from
actual contact with the earth.
The supper was good and wholesome,
and there was plenty of it cold, sliced
meat, steaming hot coffee and tea, good
io8 A Man Adrift
bread and butter, potatoes, sliced tomatoes
that were delicious, and fragrant, sweet
corn. I fell to like a wolf. After all,
there is a lot in life when you can eat
well and heartily. How the knives and
forks and plates clashed and rattled !
" Hey ! John, bring us some more meat
here ! " a fellow would shout to the silent,
busy, rushing Chinaman. You heard
orders to this effect in badly-twisted
languages of all kinds. I enjoyed that
meal. After it I felt that I could tackle
At seven o'clock I stood with a crowd
of men in the cage. We were ready to
go down the shaft. There were two
cages. One went up as the other went
down. The corners of them fitted into
slides that were fastened along the
straight, steep sides of the shaft. They
were pulled up and let down by a power-
ful engine that stood off about thirty
yards away. If the wire broke to which
the cage was suspended, a powerful spring
suddenly pushed out two immense steel
claws or catches, which fastened on to the
At Shaft 19 109
big wooden beams lining the shaft. Thus
the cage was held, and the men were
saved from being dashed to death at the
bottom. They could wait calmly till help
came. So said the man who invented the
spring and catches.
Suddenly we sank down into the thick
black gloom of the shaft. Some of the
crowd had candles, and little kettle-shaped
tin oil lamps fastened in the front of their
hats. These hats were shaped like sailors'
sou'-westers, so as to keep the water
which dripped from the roof of the tunnel
from going down their necks. Candles
and little lamps were lighted now as we
were sinking down the shaft. I caught a
blurred glimpse of a straight, threatening
black wall, lined with huge timbers. I
felt a sinking sensation in the pit of the
stomach, and a whizzing in the head.
The pace at which we were sinking was
terrific. And it seemed as if we were
never going to get to the bottom.
We stopped suddenly, after what
seemed to me to be an eternity, though
the shaft was but eight hundred feet deep.
no A Man Adrift
Out of the cage we got, and we were now
standing beneath the roof of the tunnel
which ran north and south into the earth.
One could hear in places the steady drip,
drip of water. There were twenty-eight
tunnels extending from Croton to New
York. The human gnomes would burrow,
burrow, north and south, north and south,
till all the tunnels met and formed one
great tunnel twenty-eight miles long.
Through this tunnel water was to come
from Croton for the people of New York
to drink. It was a tremendous job, and
thousands of men were at work. The
contractors boarded them at the rate of
four dollars a week, and a dollar and a
half a day was the lowest wages paid.
As we stood in the tunnel we heard a
clank! clank! It sounded weirdly and
curiously through the stillness and dark-
ness. It was a mule drawing a car along
the line of short-gauge rails which ran
along the floor of the tunnel from the
north and south headings to the bottom
of the shaft. The headings were the
extreme points north and south to which
At Shaft 19 in
the drillers had pierced through the
Now we were up in the north heading.
We belonged to the north heading gang.
We had tramped slowly along the tunnel
about five hundred yards, and got our
picks and shovels and drills and machines
from a car on the way. Other men were
following us from the next down-cage.
Our light came from candles and lamps
and torches ranged along the wall near us
A fitful, uncertain light, but enough for us
to see to do the work. I was in the pick-
and-sbovel gang at the bottom of the
bench a huge mass of rock shaped like
a step, on the top of which was the narrow
heading where the machine men and
their helpers were now getting into
position their machines and drills.
At the foot of the bench was a great
mass of broken rock, shattered out from
the bench and heading by the dynamite-
blast of the last shift. This we had to
load into the car, which was drawn, when
full, by the mule to the cage at the bottom
of the shaft. Then it would be hoisted
H2 A Man Adrift
up and dumped out on the ground on top.
While the mule was away we were loading
up another car, which we had pushed up
ourselves from a little siding. The big
pieces of rock we lifted into the car with
our hands. We used our shovels for the
small and crumbled pieces.
Up above us in the heading the machine
drills were whirring, crunching and
eating into the rock. Holes were being
drilled at an angle from either side of the
heading, so that the dynamite would blow
out triangular sections of the rock. Holes
were being drilled down perpendicularly
into the bench. In awkward parts of the
heading, or bench, where a machine drill
could not be got to work, men were hand-
drilling. Now and then I would look up
and see flashing the bright, smooth faces
of the seven -pound sledges as they were
swung round and round by strong-armed,
grimy men. Clang ! clang ! clang ! The
sledges were striking the heads of the
steel hand -drills as they were being
turned and held into the rock by peering,
crouching men. Whirrrr whirrrr
At Shaft 19 113
whirrrr were going the machine-drills,
driven by compressed air. It was a chaos
of whirring and crunching and ringing of
driven steel and hissing of the escaping
exhaust of air and crushing of rocks into
the car, and shouts of " Look out there I "
as a fellow would pinch down with a
lever a big piece of rock from the top of
the bench. We would jump out of the
way as the great, jagged rock crashed past
us. Water was dripping, dripping down
upon us from the roof. We had to look
out for the roof, for now and then in
the tunnels pieces fell from above and men
were killed. But we didn't think of that
much. We just worked and worked
There was a curious overpowering smell
of earth penetrating everything. We were
gnomes buried deep, deep down, fighting
and crushing our way through the dark
hidden rock. Fighting our way with
steel and air and hammers and bursting
frightful dynamite, and the power of
blood and bone and muscle. We were
gnomes gathered here from all parts of
H4 A Man Adrift
the earth. We were working down In
darkness and shadows and fitful glarings
of light We were as blind men fighting.
We could see nothing but blackness, and
solid, iron rock rock old with the age of
thousands upon thousands of centuries.
We were slowly fighting in blackness.
But for all that we were going in a line
that was straight absolutely. And at the
same time there were twenty - eight
tunnels going as we were going fifty-
six headings in all. Fifty-six gangs of
gnomes who in time would meet. And
all were going in a straight line abso-
lutely guided by the sure, piercing eye
Hour after hour passed in the north
heading of Shaft 19. The work was
more interesting than navvying work
usually, so one hardly noticed the time
going. The noise and the curious
picturesqueness of the surroundings gave
one a stimulus. You could carry on a
shouting conversation with the fellow
working alongside you. Even if you
didn't know his language, at least you
At Shaft 19 115
could manage to exchange some ideas
with him, for the navvies had a tunnel
slang as sailors have a ship slang. Shaft
19 was not the first shaft at which I had
worked, so I knew the ropes.
Twelve o'clock was upon us before we
knew where we were, and we stopped to
get something to eat. A cold luncheon
was brought down for us in big baskets to
the bottom of the shaft. We left the
heading in a body, and walked down the
tunnel, and sat on and around the down-
cage to eat our grub. We washed it
down with cold tea or water. Some of
the fellows produced bottles of beer which
they had stowed away in safe places.
This meal was a quiet one. None of us
had much to say. The spell of midnight,
darkness, and gloom was falling upon us.
The sudden silence after the noise and
movement affected us. You would hardly
believe that we were part of the same
crowd who had had supper together at
seven o'clock in the evening. If men
spoke at all, they spoke in low, subdued
tones. And the drip ! drip ! of the water
n6 A Man Adrift
from the roof gave a weirdness to the
It was one o'clock in the morning now,
and we were back again in the heading.
The work was going on as before, but
there was a difference in the men. They
were becoming so silent. And as one
o'clock merged into two o'clock, and two
o'clock into three o'clock, they were silent
as ghosts. Men moved round like
phantoms. They were swinging ham-
mers and lifting rocks and using picks
and shovels. But it was as if the life of
the men had gone into the tools and
rocks as if they were but attendant
At half-past five we had cleared up all
the loose rocks. We were getting ready
to blast. The drillers were sponging out
the holes they had drilled through the
long night. And then two wooden boxes,
about a foot and a half square each, were
carefully carried up into the heading. If
a box fell from the arms of the man who
was carrying it, it might mean sudden and
frightful death for every man of us, for
At Shaft 19 117
each box was filled with dynamite. It
was in the shape of big cartridges from
ten to twelve inches long. Dynamite is
an ugly thing to handle. One can never
tell what amount of shock will set it off.
We loaded up the picks and shovels
and drills and machines into two cars
which we pushed down the tunnel far
enough to be away from the actual
destroying effect of the blast. Then we
got some distance behind them, and
waited. By this time the holes in the
bench and heading were primed and
filled, and the heading boss was stand-
ing near us ready to touch off the
dynamite with an electric battery.
He touched if off.
I had been down in tunnels before
when the dynamite had been set off by
the connecting battery, and therefore
knew what was coming. The best way
to stand the tremendous, horrible shock
was to let yourself go limp. If you
braced yourself hard it was all the worse
for you. The shock was all -seizing.
Even your power of will could make no
n8 A Man Adrift
headway against it In fact, it would
be better if you did not know it was
coming at all. Imagine it! You were
two hundred yards away from a
terrific explosion that rushed along a
space twenty by twenty feet, in a direct
line. Its power was confined and kept
intact just as is the exploding powder in
the bore of a cannon. In fact, it was as
if you were standing inside a gigantic
cannon. You felt the shock of death
without being dashed to death. Your
body, your blood, your brain, your will
were struck violently and horribly.
After the blast we got into the cage and
went up into the clear morning air. It
was summer-time, and the sun was up.
It was fine to see and feel it after being
down in the darkness for eleven hours.
We washed ourselves and then went
over to the shanty to get breakfast.
And after that we turned in.
X. IN PRISON
NEW ORLEANS is a picturesque town built
upon a swamp. It lies in the form of a
crescent round a bend of the Mississippi,
the waters of which are eighteen inches
higher than the level of the town. A
levee has been built to protect it, but the
inhabitants say that, some time or another,
the town will be swept away by the over-
rushing of the great river. Thus there is
a shadow for ever hanging over New
Orleans. But the town is gay and bright
and full of life. It is a French town,
that has become Americanised. Here
gambling goes on day in day out, night
in night out, year in year out. Wheels
whirr, balls roll, cards shuffle on for
The gambling-houses are on Royal
120 A Man Adrift
Street. They are fitted up in luxurious
fashion. They may be blamable institu-
tions, but at least they are democratic.
All may enter, it matters not how shabby
the attire, or how disreputable and low
down the appearance. If a man has no
money to get himself a place to sleep at
night, he may go in and sit down. He is
welcome to share the light and warmth.
The tramp may jostle elbows with the
rich, well-groomed blood, and there is no
one to censure or to eject. A man need
not be ashamed of meanness of dress,
for no one notices or criticises. The lust
after gold is a passion that brings men
to a common level.
How quaint and beautiful is the French
Market! Here may be got the most
delicious coffee in the world. Its effect
upon one is like that of some rare old
wine. It warms and soothes from crown
to toe. An old negro, white-capped and
white-aproned, may serve it to you across
a stall. Around in the market is the
huny and bustle of buying and selling.
But there is in the hurry and bustle a
In Prison 121
suggestion of languor. It is not the
hurry and bustle of the North. People
pass, chattering the Creole patois ; negroes
cry out the merits of their wares in shrill,
wheezy voices ; flower-girls arrange and
tie up bunches of flowers ; horses and
carts back and start again ; drivers shower
promiscuous benedictions; baskets are
If you are hard up and hungry in this
town, and you possess a dime, you may
go to a saloon on the corner of Royal
Street and get a sumptuous free lunch
as much as ever you can eat of the best
food. A chef will serve you with a cut
from the joint, and a dish of delicious
soup if you get there between certain
hours. I have gone into this saloon
suffering from a twenty-four hours' fast,
and I have come out into the street again
full and satisfied, and at peace with the
world in general.
Canal Street at night presents one of
the most beautiful city sights of the
world. It is very wide, and is lit up by
electric lights, which shine from the tops
122 A Man Adrift
of columns. These columns stand in the
centre of the street, extending along for
miles. The effect of the lights piercing
in a straight line through the distance is
On the levee at night the negro roust-
abouts collect together and sing quaint,
strange part-songs. Often they have fine
voices, and the harmonic effects they get
are peculiar and beautiful. They are a
happy-go-lucky lot of fellows, who work
like dogs during the day for roustabout-
ing on a Mississippi steamboat is the
hardest work imaginable and forget
about it at night over their songs.
New Orleans ! A strange town. Its
air is bright and clear, and its sunshine
full and golden. And beautiful orange
trees are in the gardens. But in the air
there lurks disease, dread and foul. In
the clearness hangs death. Overhanging
is the eternal threat of the river. But
still is the town bright and gay for it
lies under the shadow of destruction.
In this town I spent a month in prison.
In Prison 123
I was standing on the levee talking
with two other sailors, when a policeman
came along. He at once began to ques-
tion us as to who we were, and what we
were going to do, and how much money
we had. I explained to him that we were
on the look-out for a job ,of unloading
freight from a ship, and that we had
been working together lately on John
Diamond's plantation. " No matter," he
said. " How much money have you ? " I
had two dollars, and the other fellows
had none. " If you can't show me that
you have ten dollars apiece, I will arrest
the three of you," concluded the police-
man. I pointed out to him the injustice
of the whole thing, and asked him if that
were the way they did things in the
" Land of the Free." But he was obdur-
ate. When I found out that he was
really going to do what he said, I had
a notion to knock him down and get
away. But there were other policemen
in sight, and it would only have ended
in our being shot. We submitted to the
124 A Man Adrift
We were taken, and that night we were
shut up with some others in the calaboose
on the levee. There were about twenty
of us in all negroes and white men.
The fact of being arrested did not seem
to weigh much on any of us. We were
comforted by the curious philosophy that
goes with poverty and misfortune. None
of us had had the requisite ten dollars
necessary to ensure us our liberty. So
we made the best of it. I sent out for
some beer with the two dollars I had
we were allowed this privilege if we paid
for it and we made merry. It is easy
and natural to make merry with people
who are in the same boat as yourself.
We told stories, compared notes, and sang
songs. One negro had a most beautiful
voice. It was a voice of sweet, mournful
timbre. Through it ran the sadness of
the life of the slave. The man who sang
had not been a slave, but he was born
with the sense of the degradation of being
flogged, and bought and sold. He sang
"Carry me back to Ole Virginny" the
song of the slave who had been sold
In Prison 125
away from the place where he was born.
This negro sang more than anyone else.
His voice seemed to chime in with the
spirit of the situation. After all, we
were nothing but white and black slaves
And so the night wore away.
It was not till a long time after that I
learned the real reason of our arrest. It
seems that an election was going on, and
the party in power took the precaution
of arresting all the strangers they could
lay their hands on. They were afraid the
other side would bribe them to vote.
Such a simple thing as the stranger being
an alien could be easily got over by
supplying him with a name and an ad-
dress. The buying and selling of votes
is one of the staple industries of the
United States. Why the party in power
did not bribe the strangers themselves
was rather a puzzle. It may have been
that it was cheaper to clap them into
gaol, for they would not only have to
give them no money, but they could even
make a profit on them while in prison
A Man Adrift
by charging up their maintenance to the
When we were brought up before the
Justice the next morning, I spoke out
stiff and strong. For the first time in
my life I was proud to own that I was
an Englishman. I said I was glad that
Fate had so willed it that I had been
born in the north of England. I had
inherited a prejudice against everything
English with my Irish blood. But now
my prejudice had received a shock. After
everything was said and done, England
was absolutely the freest country in the
world. She practised the principles of
freedom, while America only boasted in
a blatant way about them.
I talked like this to the Justice, but I
am afraid that I only produced a bad
impression upon him. Americans don't
like their country or their institutions to
We were sent to prison for a month.
In Prison 127
IN prison, a man who is given to the
habit of thinking passes through many
mental stages. Shut off from the world
outside, the whole of his mind as it were
passes in review before him. He sees
into its most obscure fold and depth. His
imagination becomes freer more powerful.
The small, harsh world into which he has
been thrown has no power to cramp it.
He passes through a curious, ripening
experience. The reason, or crime, for
which he is made to suffer can have no
effect upon him in the way of making
him downcast, for it will require but a
slight effort of his intellect to show him
that he is being made a scapegoat that
he is being made to suffer because he has
been bold enough to realise in action an
idea he shares in common with other
men. The* partition that separates the
criminal from what is called the honest
man is made of the thinnest tissue paper
128 A Man Adrift
I HAD committed no crime, but I realised
that I was none the better for that.
Better men than I had committed crime.
In fact, I regretted bitterly that I had
not done something. It was so stupid to
be thrown into prison for nothing. The
law punishes, but it certainly has no
contempt for the desperate law-breaker.
Indeed, it shows practically that it has a
respect for him. But for the failures and
hard-ups and unfortunates the law has
not only punishment, but contempt.
There were about as many negroes as
whites in this prison. The whites were
herded together in two great cells.
Where the negroes were put I don't
know. In the daytime we shared in
common the freedom of the big yard.
The negroes and whites usually kept
themselves apart, however. The race
distinction was perhaps more sharply
drawn here than in the world outside.
There was a white captain of the yard
In Prison 129
and a black captain of the yard prisoners
in favour with the chief warder, who were
told off to keep order amongst the men
of their respective races. These captains
carried heavy clubs, and they had the
power to knock down any man who was
disorderly or insubordinate. There was
no work for the prisoners to do beyond
the cleaning out of the cells. This was
unfortunate, for it made the time hang
wearily on one's hands. We could talk
with each other, however.
We wore the clothes in which we were
sentenced. For food we were given a
small loaf of bread each day, and a pint
of alleged coffee in the morning and
evening. The bread was nothing near
enough to satisfy us. Everyone of us
suffered from hunger. I was hungry
during the whole month I was there. I
used to wake up at night dreaming that
I was eating plentifully. When we were
eating the bread we would carefully watch
for and pick up and eat the crumbs that fell.
It is astonishing how delicious dry bread
can taste when a man is really hungry.
130 A Man Adrift
To amuse themselves the warders would
sometimes pitch loaves of bread to the
prisoners. The sight was most sickening.
Hungry white men and black men would
sprawl and tumble in a heap together,
fighting like wolves for the bread. The
warders would stand off enjoying it. Now
a nigger would clutch a loaf from a white
man. Now the white man would tear it
from him again. And as they fought
they would send out sharp, clear, wolf-like
There were about fifty men in the cell
in which I was, and we governed our-
selves while in there by a code of laws.
These laws had been made by prisoners,
and had been handed from one set to
another for years. They were based on
the same principles as the laws governing
a country or any society modified, of
course, by the surroundings. We had a
president, a judge, a sheriff, and other
officers. If a man showed a particular
aptitude for the exercise of any function,
he was remembered for it, and when he
came back again to the prison he was
In Prison 131
elected to the office, if it were at all
possible. The warders never interfered
with the laws of the prisoners.
One of the laws of the cell was that no
man should steal another's bread. The
punishment for this crime was a severe
flogging with a belt, "paddling," as it was
called. Whilst I was there, a man did
steal another man's bread/ He was found
out and tried for the offence. The judge
of the cell appointed me as counsel for
the defence. The trial was rather long,
and was as serious as a trial could be.
The issue at stake was a grave one, and
was treated in the same spirit that a grave
issue would be in a recognised court of
The chief warder stood at the door of
the cell, listening to the trial.
I cross-examined the witnesses for the
prosecution. I must say that the judge
allowed me rather a free hand. And in
the end I won my case. My speech for
the defence was applauded, and the man
was let go.
132 A Man Adrift
How clear and beautiful was the sky
above us in the great yard where we
spent the day ! We would walk or lounge
about, or sit down and tell each other our
histories with the frankness of men under
a common ban. There was one man in
particular, who had spent a good deal of
time in prisons. He was a burglar a
most intelligent-looking man, with blue
eyes and an indomitable expression of
face. He talked of burglary as a man
would talk of any other profession. He
knew every twist and turn of it when
to break into a house the kind of house
to break into, and so on. I could not
help thinking that his was a profession
which called into play a tremendous amount
of daring and natural talent. The burglar
had been ignominiously gathered in with
the rest of us, because he, too, could not
show ten dollars.
Also there was a young English fellow
from Birmingham. He was little more
In Prison 133
than a boy. He had a fine, open face,
with blue eyes, a trifle hard. This young
fellow had been a highway robber, and I
seemed to take his fancy. He thought
that we would do well if we took the road
together. It took two, he explained, to
hold up a man properly one to cover him
with the pistol, while the other saw that
he turned out all his wealth. I must
confess that the idea had for me a great
charm.. And at the worst I would have
the consolation of knowing that I had got
into gaol for doing something. Besides,
one could live well, and there was the
excitement of never knowing what would
turn up next.
Though there was hardly any disci-
pline, still the breaking of the few
prison-rules that did exist was punished
terribly. Men were bound up and tor-
tured in a contrivance called the stocks.
The stocks was really a rack. A man
was tied up, laid upon it, and tortured by
means of stretching and twisting the
joints of his legs. The place where this
racking was done was in a small shanty
134 A Man Adrift
painted black which stood off over in
the corner of the yard. I never saw a
man racked, but I have seen a man
hustled into the shanty ; and afterwards
I have heard him groaning and screaming.
The screaming of a man in agony is a
thing that can never be forgotten.
The effect upon us as we listened to it
in the yard was awful. We stood in
groups, cowed and disheartened, for no
one knew whose turn would come next.
The cries of the tortured man seemed to
get into the blood, and affect the beating
of the heart The cowed negroes and
whites would look at each other fear-
fully. In these horrible moments even
the sense of distinction of race was lost.
We were fellow-prisoners before we were
negroes or whites.
After being tortured the man would be
taken to the hospital.
I came near being racked myself
through having a quarrel with a negro.
We had some dispute, and the negro
called me " a white son of a ." Com-
ing from the mouth of a black man, this
In Prison 135
insult was the most odious imaginable.
According to the feeling of white men in
the Southern States I would have been
justified in shooting him dead, if possible.
I stepped back, and then jumped at
the negro, striking him twice in the face.
He went down. Then I stood over him,
ready to knock him down when he got
up again. But here I made a mistake,
for the negro, instead of getting up
simply turned his body round and got
upon his hands and knees. I had no
idea what he was up to, and as I was
backing away from him he suddenly
flung his arms round my ankles, raised
himself, and flung me clean over his
head. Before I could realise it I was
lying on my back, with the negro's weight
upon me. Both my shoulders were touch-
ing flat on the ground, and try as I might
I was unable to move. I was completely
at my opponent's mercy. I had fallen a
victim to a trick commonly practised by
I looked up at the negro and waited.
His fist was raised, but he didn't strike.
136 A Man Adrift
As I was wondering what would be the
reason of this, he got up from me
suddenly and helped me to my feet. The
black man was magnanimous. He
The whole thing was over in a few
seconds. For some reason or another
the black captain of the yard who was
standing near ignored the fight.
Just as the crowd that had collected
around us was dispersing, the chief
warder came running up. His eyes
blazed as he laid his hand heavily on
my shoulder. I was in for it, I thought.
"Who struck first?" he demanded. The
man who struck first would be the man
to be racked!
" I did," I said.
I felt my time had come. I would be
tortured. And fear came over me as I
looked into the warder's face. " It's a
damned good job you're a white man,"
he said, as he turned away. This was
the end of the incident. My colour had
On Sundays we attended Divine Ser-
In Prison 137
vice. We all looked forward to this, for
it was a pleasure and a relief to feel that
one was a man once more, if only for an
hour. We knelt before the altar on the
same terms as other men. And indeed
the founder of our religion was One who
was hard up and despised. His image
was there before us, showing Him as He
suffered an awful and ignominious death.
He would have understood us absolutely.
The Man whose name would live while
the world lasted had been a tramp and
Strange thoughts used to come into
my mind as I listened to the rich, full
tones of the organ playing in the little
prison church. I wondered what I should
do when I got out into the world again.
Would it be better for me to work like a
dog and a slave, or would it be better for
me to go and rob and live easy, and take
my chance? Or would some curious
stroke of luck happen to me that would
lift me out of my present groove?
Honesty and labouring with the hands
only brought degradation and contempt.
138 A Man Adrift
The society in which we lived was based
upon the principle of theft. Not such
theft as the burglar's theft, but mean,
cowardly, safe theft. Christ would sooner
have taken the hand of the burglar than
the hand of the business man. The
meanest and worst criminals got off scot-
free. It was said that vengeance over-
took them. But it was only said. As
a rule the criminals who were put in
prison were those whose crimes savoured
somewhat of nobility. To conquer the
world, cunning, fraud, and underhand
violence had to be used. What was the
use of blinking the fact? I thought.
Ministers of religion were traitors who
warped the teachings of Christ so that
themselves and the State might profit.
Or could it be, I thought again, that
to follow out the teaching of the Galilean
was impossible? Could it be that
cowardly theft and meanness, and lying,
and undtrhand violence was the right
thing after all ? Was even the very
essence of Religion but a subtle
In Prison 139
ONE day a murder was committed by
one of the warders. I saw it done with
my own eyes. Nothing was ever said
about it. The body was trundled away,
and no questions asked.
A prisoner was suffering 1 from pellagra.
He ought to have been sent at once to
the hospital, but this warder thought it
would be fun to give him a cold bath.
He was taken into the bath-house, stripped,
and a stream of Mississippi water was
played upon him from the hose. To fully
understand what effect this water would
have if used even upon a strong man, I
need only state that the water of the river
was not far from freezing point, while the
temperature of the air was about eighty
degrees. The water must have been at
least forty degrees colder than the sur-
rounding air. Besides, the man was
already in a weak, exhausted condition.
The warder played the hose upon him
as he crouched and shivered in the bath,
140 A Man Adrift
and he was dead in less than a minute.
I saw the whole thing, for I was in the
bath-house at the time, cleaning up the
floor. I knew the man was dead by the
huddled-up way in which he was lying.
The warder was still playing the hose
upon him. "Let up," I said. "He's
The warder stopped the hose and came
over to the side of the bath. " Are you
sure ? " he asked me. " Isn't he sham-
ming ? "
I reached, and turned the dead man
over on his side, and placed my hand
over his heart. It was still. The man
" Dead as a stone," I said to the warder.
" Lift him out, then," he ordered.
I got into the bath and lifted out the
And this was the end of him. The
warder's " Lift him out, then," was his
burial service. Nothing more was said
either about him or over him. A cart
was brought, and I lifted the murdered
man in, and he was trundled away, I
In Prison 141
don't know where, just as if he were a
Curiously enough, when the end of the
month drew near, I did not feel as much
elation as I thought I should feel at the
prospect of getting my liberty again. I
suppose in time one would get used to
almost any set of surroundings. The
thing that I thought of most was the
chance I would have of getting a full
meal again. To be hungry straight on
end for a whole month is terrible. But
where would I get the meal from when
I did get out. I had no money, and
there was no one to whom I could go
in New Orleans. Still, I would be glad
to have my liberty. But I had grown to
like some of my fellow-prisoners. Going
out would mean parting from them. I
felt that I would drift away from the
two men who would be let out with me
on the same day. Companionship means
a lot to a man who drifts about the world
So when the morning came for my
142 A Man Adrift
release I felt rather sad. And somehow
I felt afraid to face things again. The
month's forced inaction had lessened my
power of initiative. The surroundings
and the bad food had taken the spirit
out of me.
The young Birmingham fellow had
gone out a couple of days before. He
said he would be on hand to meet me
when I came out. But I felt that this
was rather a forlorn hope. Besides, it
struck me that I had better face circum-
stances alone. And who could tell what
might turn up? I might on the corner
of a street find a purse ! Then I would
go and buy myself a good breakfast
a first-class breakfast and after I would
get myself some clothes. The ones I had
on were common and shabby-looking. It
would be a fine thing to walk around,
clean, and feeling like a man once more.
My spirits began to rise.
I shook hands with my mates in the
cell when the warder came to unlock the
door. He called out my name with some
others, and we followed him out into
In Prison 143
the yard and into the office of the prison.
Here, after some formality, we were let
out through the great gate.
As I crossed the street a woman who
was passing by looked at me curiously,
and, I thought, pityingly. A feeling of
shame came over me, and I hurried away
as fast as I could.
I WAS puzzled as to what to do. The
country was flooded, and there seemed
to be no chance for me to go in the
direction I wished to go. Water, water
was everywhere the yellow water of the
Mississippi. The big river had made a
twelve-hundred-yard crevasse in the levee
below New Orleans. It was swallowing
up the country from three directions
the south, the east, the west. The only
way of escape was by a narrow strip of
hill-land which ran to the north up into
I wanted to go east, to New Orleans.
But between me and the town was a
two-hundred-mile sheet of water. The
water was so high that steamboats were
plying over the country between Bayou
Sale and New Orleans. Bayou Sale
was the place where I was at. The fact
No Money 145
of the steamboats running to where I
wanted to go did not help me, however.
And there was a good and sufficient
reason. I had no money to pay my
I cursed my luck for being in Louisiana
during the flood season. If things had
been all right I could have tramped it.
But to swim it was a large order. So
I began to think.
Passing me were niggers and their
families carrying what they could of
their belongings up the narrow strip of
hill-land. They were homeless. They
had been flooded out. Those who had
the money to pay their way were going
to New Orleans on the steamboats.
But the great majority of them were
going up north the way I didn't want
Suddenly the way out of the difficulty
flashed upon me. What a fool I had
been ! Why, it was as easy as rolling
off a log.
A steamboat was to go to New Orleans
in half an hour. She was moored to a
146 A Man Adrift
tree which stood on the top of a slight
rise in the ground. The nigger roust-
abouts were getting freight aboard her,
and the big white mate was blaspheming
horribly at them as was the custom.
I swaggered on to the steamboat with
an air of lordly ease. You'd have thought
I owned it. I nodded to the swearing,
raucous-voiced mate. My plan was a
simple one. The collector would not
come round for fares till the boat had
been out at least an hour. Then I
would tell him calmly that I had no
money. They couldn't put me off into
the water they couldn't turn back and
they couldn't eat me. The only danger
was that they might have me arrested
when we got to New Orleans. This
would mean a month's imprisonment at
least. But I had long ago realised that
one must take some risks to get through
So I waited.
As the boat steamed along, one could
see the awful desolation caused by the
flood. The country had been covered
No Money 147
as with a great winding sheet. The sugar
crop, houses, property, and everything
else had been ruined. The bodies of
horses and cows and sheep were floating
about. They had either been left behind
in the hurry, or had become unmanage-
able when the owners tried to drive them
up on to the high land. Occasionally a
wooden house was to be seen floating on
its side. We passed by immersed towns
and villages. All that was to be seen of
them were the tops of the highest houses
and the spires of their churches. It was
a scene of ruin and desolation.
I was awakened from my reverie by
the collector of fares. He was standing
in front of me, waiting. The moment
was at hand. The crisis had come.
Now I must play my part.
I looked straight into his eyes, and
smiled easily. " I have no money," I
said in a calm, matter-of-fact way. I
might have been speaking about the
flood or the weather. I made the
remark in a casual fashion.
He smiled also. He thought I was
148 A Man Adrift
joking, and Americans have always time
for the appreciation of a joke. " Of
course," he said. " That's all right, I
guess. Come on. Shell out!" He had
evidently seen my lordly swagger as I
came on to the boat, and, putting two
and two together, had come at once to
the conclusion that when a man of that
style and ease said he was hard up he
was surely not in earnest.
But I gave him a second smile, and
repeated my assertion. And then the
smile died from his face. He grasped
the situation, and became indignant.
"What in hell do you mean by
coming aboard the boat, then?" he
" My dear man," I replied, still smiling,
" my reason for coming aboard the boat
must be plain to you. As you will
probably have noticed, the country is
flooded. And I can't very well swim to
New Orleans. I couldn't stop where I
was, either. So I did the only thing
left for me to do I came on board."
"You take it damned easy." ^
No Money 149
"Of course. You don't want me to
weep about it, do you?"
" Do you know that we can put you
in gaol for this ? "
" Of course I know it. But I have
weighed all that. Besides, one doesn't
know what's going to happen. And,
anyway, I'm not in gaol yet."
He laughed a little. " You're a beauty,"
he remarked. "Ho!" he shouted to the
blaspheming, raucous- voiced mate. " This
fellow's had the gall to come aboard with-
out the money to pay his fare."
The mate came forward and eyed me
from head to foot. I eyed him too. He
was a big, powerful fellow, with a brutal,
He let forth a torrent of blasphemy,
winding up with " I've a good mind to
knock hell out of you."
I had taken the man's measure ; in
fact, I had taken the measure of the
whole situation. My only chance was
in playing a stiff, cool, unafraid game.
There was a risk of my getting used up,
and getting into gaol into the bargain.
150 A Man Adrift
I decided instantly as to the handling
of the mate.
" Look here," said I, going up close to
him, and looking him straight and hard
,in the eyes. " Don't talk of knocking
hell out of me. I'd like to see you or
any other man on the boat try it on. If
I've broken the law, I'll take the con-
sequences when I get to New Orleans.
I had to do what I did, and there's an
end of it."
He glared at me, and moved slightly.
But I kept my eye hard on his. Then
his face softened a little. " Well, damn
me, partner, but you've got grit, an) how.
Perhaps we won't go hard on you. Do
you mind working your passage?" he
" Not a bit," I replied.
"All right. Come down into the
stokehole and pass coal, and when we
get to New Orleans you can help to
He brought me down into the stoke-
hole, and left me with the firemen
who, by the way, behaved very decently
No Money 151
to me. They were white men. A deck-
hand had brought down news of how I
had tackled the collector and the mate.
As everyone was afraid of the mate, my
stock went up.
They gave me a stiff pull of whisky
of which I was in need and they gave
me some grub. They wouldn't let me
shovel any coal for them. I just lay and
chatted till the journey's end.
When we got there I helped to unload
the freight, as agreed. And when this
was done, and I was going down the
gang-plank, the mate called me back.
" Here's a quarter," he said. "Get a
drink." And, taking the quarter with
thanks, I went ashore, and faced up
Royal Street. I was in New Orleans.
XII. THROUGH THE ROCKIES
I HAD been sailoring on Lake Ontario,
and was loafing around Toronto, when
suddenly an idea struck me to go out to
the Rockies. Going was the easiest
thing in the world. All one had to do
was to pay the Canadian Pacific Railroad
Company a dollar. For this they carried
you to Fort Donald, in British Columbia
a place three thousand miles west of
Toronto. Fort Donald was on the east
side of the great mountain chain.
Carrying a man three thousand miles
for a dollar seems to be a charitable sort
of deed for a railway company to indulge
in. But it wasn't so charitable, after all,
when you came to look into it. They
simply wanted to ship labourers into the
Rockies so as to use them for the build-
ing of snow sheds. A snow shed is a
great wooden platform built along the
Through the Rockies 153
mountain side for the purpose of keeping
the snow from sliding down on to the
It took us five days to get to our des-
tination, and five days 1 continuous rail-
way travelling is no joke. The, steady,
swift rumble of the train, going hour
after hour, day after day, night after
night, got upon the nerves. I longed
for the rolling of a sailing vessel, or even
for the awkward pitching of a steamer in
heavy weather. It seemed as if the
smooth, grinding whirr of the wheels
beneath us would go on for ever. Even
when the train stopped at a station one
could still feel this whirr. The brain
had adopted the sensation permanently.
The country we passed through was
wild and fine, and, above all, gave one
an impression of vastness. A country
of mountains and great rivers and lakes.
We stopped at a little town on the edge
of Lake Superior. Here we got out of
the train. I, with some others, climbed
down the rocks to take a drink from the
lake. The water was the clearest water
154 A Man Adrift
I had ever seen, and, although the sun
shone out strongly, it was cold and
fresh. Indeed, there was something
death-like in its coldness. It stretched
out wide and far like a great sea. Off
out in it I could see the glint of deep,
black blue, which tells of immense
depth. It was a lake I would scarcely
have liked to sail upon. A beautiful,
forbidding vast lake, with chill, cold,
deep waters. I had heard it said that
whenever a sailor fell overboard from a
steamer in Lake Superior no effort was
made to stop and rescue him, for the life
was chilled out of the man long before a
boat could be lowered. The waters were
And then the train went on and on
till it entered the stretching, immense,
I had never seen the prairie before.
It seemed to me almost more wide and
lone than the ocean itself. Looking out
upon it brought upon one a sense of
awe and stillness. A limitless grass-
covered plain, stretching from horizon
Through the Rockies 155
to horizon, and seeming to begin and
end in eternity.
At last we came to the foot-hills of the
Rockies. We were nearing Fort Donald.
And the foot-hills changed to great,
Here we were at Fort Donald at last,
and around us, rising higher and higher,
were the Rockies !
There was nothing for us to do now
but to go to work building the snow-
sheds. If a man wouldn't work he
wouldn't get anything to eat, and therein
lay the true inwardness of the company's
reason for carrying men three thousand
miles for a dollar. When they were in
Fort Donald the men had to work at the
snow sheds whether they liked or not.
We were a mixed-up crowd, hailing
from all parts of the world. And we got
on well together, mainly because it was
almost impossible for us to get whisky.
Whisky is a bad thing. It makes a man
forget that the other fellow is a man too.
I've seen tough things done through
1 56 A Man Adrift
A dollar and a half a day was our pay,
and pay-day came once a month. They
charged us three dollars and a half a
week for board. The board was good
plenty of meat and bread and coffee and
vegetables. The meals were served up
in a sort of here-grab-this- when- 1 -throw
it-at-you way, but mountain air and hard
work make a man able to forego silver
and fine napery.
The work was rough, and we were kept
at it ten hours a day. Some of us blasted
out rock from the mountain side, while
others were felling and sawing up big
trees. Others again were now and then
sent out to hunt for fresh meat. The
mountains were full of big game.
We were called up at six in the morn-
ing, and by seven we had had break-
fast and were just commencing work.
At twelve we stopped an hour for dinner,
and after that we kept on till six o'clock
in the evening. By this time supper
was ready, and after supper we would
go over to the big wooden shanty, where
we slept. There we smoked and told
Through the Rockies 157
all sorts of yarns till it was time to
Every man of us had a bunk to himself.
This was furnished with a mattress, a
hard pillow, and two blankets.
The crowd was interesting. The men
had not only come from every place, but
they had come from every class. Here
was the man who had about him that
curious air of self poise, the heritage of
high birth and social advantage. And
here was the poor, uncouth clod, born with
the marks of labour slavery upon him.
And here was the man who had left his
country for his country's good. Taken as
a whole, however, they impressed me as a
crowd of good, hard men a crowd that a
strong man might lead to the freeing of a
country, or to the crushing of a country.
I remember one fellow he was an
Englishman who had a beautiful tenor
voice. I shall never forget the first time
I heard him sing. It was in the evening,
when we were near to the end of our day's
work. He and I had been working side
by side in the pickaxe gang. Suddenly
158 A Man Adrift
he began to sing, and I was thrilled as I
had never been thrilled before, or, indeed,
since, though I have heard the finest
Italian singers in the world. All of us
stopped working at once. He was sing-
ing an old English song a beautiful song,
that will live while the white race lives.
I can't describe the effect it had upon us
out there out there in the clear air of the
wild, lone mountains.
I asked the Englishman a lot of ques-
tions after that, but he would tell me
nothing. I have thought of him many
times since. Who was he? What was
he? and why was he there? Poor boy!
Years have gone by since I heard his
song in the Rockies.
I threw up work after two months' time,
and found myself thirty dollars ahead. I
wanted to get to the Pacific Coast. I had
it in my mind to ship somewhere from
Vancouver. But it was five hundred miles
away, nearly a month's tramp.
For thirty dollars I could buy food at the
Company's stores along the way. Thus
the main difficulty of the journey was re-
Through the Rockies 159
moved. I was all right as long as I
had money that is, as far as getting
away from the work was concerned.
One had to sleep out every night, to be
sure, and to take chances on being done
up either by the Indians or wild animals.
But a hardy man will take big chances
when he wants to be on the move. And,
besides, I couldn't miss the Pacific Coast
by any manner of means, for the Com-
pany's rails were laid two hundred miles of
the way, and the right of way, where the
rails had yet to be laid, would guide me
right up the coast.
So I started one morning. I remember
the morning well. It was clear and bright
and beautiful in the middle of June. I
was so glad to get away from the
monotonous labour, even though I was
going to I knew not what. Hard labour
is all very well to talk about, or to preach
about, but doing it is quite a different
My outfit consisted of a pair of blankets,
which were strapped across my back, a
pannikin, some biscuits and bacon, and
160 A Man Adrift
some coffee and sugar. And I was well
heeled as far as weapons were concerned.
I carried a forty-four calibred revolver and
a broad sheath knife, and I had fifty cart-
ridges in my ammunition belt. To my
mind a revolver and a knife are the
handiest weapons going that is, if you've
got to look out for a surprise, or a brush
at close quarters. I wouldn't give the
tenth part of a rap for a rifle. It is
awkward to handle in a quick rush, and
you are apt to get done up before you
know where you are. No, give me a
revolver or, better still, a good knife.
I suppose I ought to say something
about the magnificent scenery of the
Rockies, but, to tell the truth, at that
time the scenery impressed me but little.
It was great and wild and finely coloured.
But I had had enough mountain scenery
to last me a lifetime. I had been work-
ing hard in the middle of it for two
months. The poetry had been knocked
out of me.
Fine scenery doesn't impress a man
much when he's hungry, or when he's
Through the Rockies 161
alone and tired and wondering if he'll
get out of it alive. The lonesomeness of
it all is what strikes him in a time like
this. It is so terrible. It is hard to feel
that you are absolutely and utterly alone
that you might fall down and die, and
there would be no one round to hold a
cup of water to your lips.
These frightful, lonely mountains made
me think. I was face to face with things
face to face with myself. I used to
listen to the tramp, tramp of my feet,
and wonder where I was going, and why I
was going. I knew I was going to the
Pacific Coast but what then? I had
been going ever since I was a lad. And
I was so tired of it all. What had I
done that I should be a pariah and a
labourer and a vagrant ? It seemed to me
that the main reason was because I be-
longed to the low, labouring class the
slave class. I had been thrown out into
the world without education or any other
advantage, and I had become a labourer
on land and sea a human buffet for
the world's blows.
1 62 A Man Adrift
These and other thoughts used to come
to me in the long, strange days the days
I was tramping through the mountains.
And I felt so lonely, too. I began to
despair. And one day I grew sick of
the whole business, and I unslung my
revolver and determined to take a rest
for good and all. I had seen men shot
through the brain, and I knew exactly
what the effect was like. One jumped
violently, and then one sank down like a
rag, and over the face came a peaceful
look. A distorted face is more apt to
come from a jagged knife wound that
lets the life out slowly.
I mapped it out, all out, in my mind,
and I put the muzzle of the revolver
under my right ear so as to get the base
of the brain.
But just as I put my finger on the
trigger I began to think in a way I had
never thought before. My whole life,
and everything I had done in it, sud-
denly came up before my mind. Every-
thing was so clear and vivid. I seemed
to see things from many sides at once.
Through the Rockies 163
This is the way that men think when
they are drowning, I thought. And I
brought down the muzzle of the revolver.
But I intended to kill myself neverthe-
less. However, I'd try and analyse my
feelings first. And I sat down on a log
and wondered. Why shouldn't I kill my-
self? What was there before me but
misery and hard knocks? People said
that everyone in the world got at some
time or another a square chance. Honestly,
I felt that I had never had such a chance.
I had been born in the mire, and I had
stayed in the mire.
No, it had not been my own fault, I
felt. I had been moulded and crushed
to a certain shape by circumstances. I
was no more to blame for being what I
was than the Indian was to blame for being
what he was, despite what any well-fed
liar from the pulpit had to say about it.
And I stood up again and cursed the
earth and everything in it. And I felt
that the time would come when men of
my breed men from the gutter would
get even with it.
164 A Man Adrift
I put the muzzle of the revolver against
my head for the second time, and then
well, something came over me. I couldn't
tell what it was I couldn't tell even to
this day. It wasn't fear; it wasn't re-
morse. I just wanted to live just wanted
to live for no particular reason.
I suppose it was the lonesomeness of
the whole thing that got me into this
frame of mind. I saw faces, to be sure,
at the company's stations, but it was only
for a few moments just long enough for
me to buy what food I wanted.
Somehow, I think it would have been
better for me if I had seen no one at
all through the whole tramp. Then I
might have got more used to being utterly
I was never bothered at all by the
Indians, though I saw them, too, occa-
sionally ; but they either paid no attention
to me or they greeted me in a friendly
way. I have been bothered by Indians
at other times, though. As a rule Indians
are all right if we white men will let them
alone. They are not blessed with civilisa-
Through the Rockies 165
tion but they never allow any of their
tribe to starve as long as they have food
to give them. They are much more
Christian in this respect than we are.
And still we send missionaries out to
One day, about noon-time, 1 heard a
sound that froze me to the marrow with
fear. It was a rattlesnake that had come
out on to the middle of the track to sun
itself. The bright steel of the rails had
attracted it Sbrrr! Sbrrr! Its rattle
was going at a furious rate. The sound
of my footsteps had disturbed it
I had never seen a rattlesnake before,
and after I had got over my first impulse
of fear I began to study it I knew it
was a rattler because it tallied with the
descriptions I had heard of it. Besides,
it is well known that they are the only
snakes in the North-west that will dispute
the path with you. The other snakes
glide away at the sound of a footstep.
Its head was raised about four inches
from the ground, and was swaying to and
fro. Its mouth was wide open, and out
1 66 A Man Adrift
of it the fangs were shooting. It wasn't
coiled up, as you see snakes coiled up in
pictures. Its colour was a sort of dirty
dark grey. It must have been about five
The look in its eyes was enough to
make a man turn sick and die.
I fired a shot at it, and though I broke
the ground within an inch of it it never
moved a peg out of the way. It still kept
swaying its head and rattling. This
touched me a little. The snake was game
and I like to come across anything
that's game. You are not often allowed
I was going to fire at it a second time,
but I thought I'd let it alone. After all
it was in its own country, and would
harm no one if not bothered. I was an
intruder there anyway. So I got off the
track and walked half round it. I had
to keep a close eye on it, however, for
it wheeled slowly round with me, watch-
When night came on, my plan was to
collect a big pile of dried branches and
Through the Rockies 167
make a fire. Then I'd cook myself some
grub, and after I had eaten I'd have a
smoke. After my smoke I would spread
a blanket on the ground, and lay my knife
and revolver near where my head was
going to rest, so that I could grab them
at once if need be. I covered myself up
with the other blankets just as I lay
down, and then I would drop off
to sleep before you could say Jack
I didn't dream at all. I was
too tired with the tramping and the
Sleeping out in the open air is the finest
thing a man can do. You become as
strong and as hard as an animal. People
live too much in houses.
Just as dawn was breaking, I would
waken up. Then I would cook my
breakfast over the remains of the fire,
eat, pack my blankets and get on the
Afcer many days tramping I came to
a little settlement on the north fork of
the Fraser River. It was called Yale.
1 68 A Man Adrift
Though I didn't go much on scenery just
then, I must say the look of the mountains
here impressed me. It seemed to me as
if I were in the biggest church one could
think of a church without a roof. The
mountains were the biggest I had ever
seen, and they stood up almost as straight
as pillars. The tops of them were covered
with snow, and half way down one of
them was a glacier that had taken a
thousand years to form.
Down in the valley the river tore along
horribly. It was one of the ugliest and
wickedest-looking pieces of water I had
ever seen. If you fell in here you had
no more chance of swimming than you
would have in the Maelstrom. You were
lost. It was more awful -looking than
the mid -ocean in a hurricane, because
beneath it all one could feel there was
Here I had a go at salmon fishing. I
saw a Si wash Indian on the top of a rock
hauling up salmon out of the rapids.
His way of doing it was simple. He just
thrust an immense landing net down
Through the Rockies 169
into the water, and a salmon would run
into it. The water was packed with the
fish. They were working their way up
Three guy-ropes were fastened to the
frame of the net to keep it steady in the
rushing water. The ropes were hitched
to a tree that stood off over on the
Big salmon they were, too some of
them thirty-five and forty pounders. When
one of them got into the net the Indian
knew about it. It looked as if the guy-
ropes were going to snap.
When the Indian hauled up the strug-
gling, fighting salmon on to the top of
the rock he brained it by giving it
a light tap on the head with a small
I asked the Indian to let me have a
try at it, and he did. The first salmon
I hauled up nearly cost me my life, for
it almost knocked me into the rapids,
and once in the rapids I would have
been smashed into smithereens on the
170 A Man Adrift
This salmon was a big fellow, and I
was foolish enough to pick him up in
my arms, just to see how strong an up-
stream salmon really was. I want no
more of it. I thought I was grappling
with a mountain lion. A man was
nothing to it. I didn't know where I
was. I only knew that I was getting a
hard flinging about somewhere or another.
I held on though^ till the Indian got in
one of his light taps on the head of the
salmon. This soothed him.
I hauled up about twenty fish, and I
must say it was great sport, and dangerous
sport, too, for if you got knocked off the
rocks it was all up with you.
At this part of my journey I had got a
long way past the point where the com-
pany's rails were laid. I was in the right
of way, or cutting, where the line had yet
to come. My journey was nearly over.
I had crossed the summit of the big
mountain chain. From then on it was
a gradual slope to the coast. The moun-
tains got smaller. The lonesome feeling
Through the Rockies 171
And one morning as I rounded the turn
of a gorge I saw off in the distance a
great shining stretch of water. It was
KAMLOOPS was a rough town. The men
that drift here and there and everywhere
had made it for the time their abiding
place for in the mountains beyond it was
to be found gold. Few found it, though ;
and as I was not one of that few, I had
to go to work on the railroad which was
being built away out through the mountains.
I was in the gang that laid the steel.
The work was lively. Four of us had
to pick up and carry thirty-foot steel rails
in a hot sun. Three dollars and a half a
day was the rate at which we were paid.
We got our wages on the fifteenth of
every month, and when the money came
we took a day or so off to spend it. We
painted Kamloops red while it lasted,
and hard things used to happen. I re-
member when the Marshal and his
deputies got fresh, and arrested Bruce
for just nothing at all. He was a nice
fellow a University man but I suppose
he had cut up rough at home in England,
and had had to get out. I felt sorry to
have to see him go along with the Marshal
and his men, but they had got the drop
on us, and in that country it was shoot if
you moved. The crowd had been a trifle
noisy in Kelly's saloon that was all.
But that night six or seven of us heeled
ourselves, and made for the calaboose.
With an axe I smashed in the door, and
we got Bruce out. The Marshal and his
gang interfered, to be sure. But that's
neither here nor there.
We lived in batches of six or seven in
small rough log-houses, which we called
" shacks," and which we built ourselves.
One of us would stay at home and cook
the grub while the rest were working on
the track. At this we took turn about.
One night, as we were smoking our
pipes round the fire, two men came up to
the door of our shack. They were in
174 A Man Adrift
soldier's uniform, and they frankly told us
that they had deserted from Indian Creek,
a post two hundred miles away. Their
object, they s'aid, was to get to the United
States, where they would be safe. We
sympathised with them, and did our level
best to make them comfortable. One gave
his name as Cox, the other as Maxwell.
They said they belonged to Toronto,
Canada, where they had enlisted. They
had deserted from the post because the
discipline was hard. Maxwell could not
have been more than twenty years old.
He was tall, well formed, and had a fine,
frank face. Altogether, he was a young
fellow whose appearance one would be apt
to like. He was home-sick, spoke of his
mother and his wish to see her, but that it
would be impossible now that he was a
deserter. He would have to try his luck
in the States. I felt sorry for him.
Cox might have been twenty-five years
old. He was of middle height and of a
wiry build. He had keen black eyes, and
a foxy expression of face.
Their next point was Yale, a place thirty
miles away, They hoped to reach it by
the following night.
After smoking and chatting awhile, all
hands, including the deserters, turned in.
We were tired.
Morning came, and with it a complica-
tion. Jimmy Murphy strongly objected
to our guests leaving. And as he had
twenty dollars planted away since last
month's pay-day, he proposed a holiday.
Rails would be laid after we were dead,
Our guests, not being able to withstand
his logic, stayed, and we had a roaring
time. On in the afternoon we got a boat,
and rowed out into Kamloops Lake. Full
of whisky and the devil, I jumped on the
gunwale of the boat, and overturned it.
Luckily, all hands could swim. As for
myself, filled with a crazy notion, I faced
for the centre of the lake, which at this
point was a good deal over a mile wide.
I felt the sudden sense of great power
that often comes to the drunken. I would
have hurled myself into a Niagara, or into
176 A Man Adrift
I was swimming to certain death, for
close to the lake's centre was a powerful
current, which would have carried me
down into the rapids, where I would
have been torn to pieces on sharp,
jutting rocks. But I had not gone very
far before I was clutched by the collar,
and dragged round. It was Maxwell,
who had swum after me. He saw the
danger my mad spell was bringing me to.
He brought me to reason, and I turned,
and swam back with him. To him I owe
The next day came, and we went back
to work. The soldiers left us to go on
Two months after this I was singing in
the Globe Hotel in Vancouver. The
hotel in the evening was turned into a
concert hall, and I was engaged as a
baritone. I had a fair voice, and I knew
something of music. I sang on the stage
in the same rough sailor rig I had worn
when working on the railroad. Singing
was easier than laying rails.
I got on well with the audience. They
were indeed a mixed -up, cosmopolitan
crowd hailing from everywhere. But
the tie of the vagabond bound them all
together. And they were good fellows,
who would share up with the stranger.
After singing I got big applause. I
sang again. Then I went in amongst
the audience and sat down with some
fellows I knew to take a drink. I was
hardly seated before I was touched on
the shoulder. I turned round. It was
Cox. He had got rid of his uniform.
"By God, Reddy!" he exclaimed.
"You've got a great voice.'*
"Oh, that's all right," I said. "Sit
down and have a drink. Where's your
His face changed colour.
" Maxwell," he repeated after me, as he
looked at me curiously. " Haven't you
heard ? "
178 A Man Adrift
" Why he's condemned to be hung. "
" Hung hung!" I said, slowly. " What
for ? " and I looked straight at him.
"Why he and two other fellows were
tried and condemned to death in New
Westminster for knocking a man cold
and taking away his money in Yale."
" Oh, yes ! " interrupted one of the men
sitting at the table. "You mean the
young, good-looking fellow who deserted
from Indian Creek. He's going to be
hung with the other two I can't re-
member their names next week. Why
Reddy" to me "you must have been
asleep not to have heard about it."
"Yes," put in another, "and I think
the trial was a damned fraud, anyway.
The old circumstantial evidence gag, you
know. The men were in the neighbour-
hood at the time of the murder, and a
numbskull of a doctor said that their
clothes were spattered with human blood.
I guess they're done for, anyway. I'll bet
my head to a cent, though, that the
Indians killed the man."
I sat there, not knowing what to say.
I was bewildered. My head was turning.
Why I was so affected was rather a
mystery to me, for often in my various
knockings round in tough, out-of-the-way
places I had seen men fight and kill each
other for nothing at all. I had become
hardened to scenes of violence. But for
this young fellow who had got into trouble
I felt a liking from the first I saw of him.
I had often thought of him. There was
something fine in his face. Besides, he
had saved my life.
I said to Cox :
"The boy has come across a tough
streak of luck. Where did you leave him ? "
" Oh, about two or three days after we
were with you in the shack," he answered.
" We got to Yale on the night of the day
we started from you fellows. We had
hard work to make it, though. Thirty
miles isn't easy. The next day after we
got there Maxwell got on a tear, and the
day after that, as he wouldn't leave Yale, I
left him there. You know I was scared.
I didn't know what minute the troopers
from Indian Creek would be on our necks.
180 A Man Adrift
The next time I saw him was when they
were trying him for murder in New
" It's a wonder they didn't pull you, too,"
"Well, I guess they would have," said
Cox, "only that I wasn't round Yale when
the thing happened. But, say, boys, I'm
going. So long, Reddy. See you again,
He rose and walked to the door. I
followed him, and, laying my hand upon
his shoulder, said :
"Say, Cox, can't you tell me anything
more about Maxwell ? What you've told
me about him has upset me knocked me
out. Where are you going ? And when
shall I see you again ? "
"Well, I'm goin' to get out of here at
four o'clock in the morning on a schooner
to Tacoma. You see, I've got to get into
the States, for I'm liable to be pulled here
any minute for desertion. I'm sorry I
mentioned Indian Creek over at table
yonder. You can't tell who's round.
Besides, to tell you the God's truth, I'm
Maxwell 1 8 1
dead skeary about this business of Max-
well's. I wasn't round at the time, I
know, but then nobody knows what's
going to happen."
"Well, then/' said I, "if that's the case,
you'd better get right out. It's none of
my business where you were. But I'm
sorry about Maxwell. Do you think he
was in it ? "
" I don't ; I'm certain he wasn't. He's
a good fellow, and, anyway, the killing was
too mean a business for a soldier to be
mixed up in. Why the man was found
with his head battered in, and his body all
smashed up. The doctor said it was the
work of a club, and that was about the
only true thing he did say."
I looked at him.
" I wonder if anything could be done for
Maxwell?" I asked.
" I don't know."
"When was the murder committed?"
" The papers say on June the loth,
" I think I'll try and see Maxwell," I
1 82 A Man Adrift
" Well, you'll find him in the peniten-
tiary at New Westminster. I don't think,
though, that they'll let you in to see him.
But,'so long, Reddy, I've got to go,'* and
All night long I couldn't sleep.
I kept seeing Maxwell's face. I could
see its softened expression as he talked of
his home away off in Canada, where his
mother sorrowed for him. Again I could
see its determined look as he pulled me
around in my mad swim in Kamloops
Lake. The boy was surely no coward,
and this murder was low and cowardly.
He had nothing to do with it not he!
And if he had well, I couldn't bear to
think of that.
No, it must have been the work of
someone else. He was around when
they were going to make an arrest, and
so he had got into the scrape. The trouble
was this ; the limbs of the law wanted to
show how clever they were in ferreting
out murder on the frontier. I had known
policemen, marshals, and others like them,
to put up a job on an innocent man,
and have him hung solely for the purpose
of showing that they were smart.
On the morning of the next day I made
full inquiries. To my surprise, the first
thing I found out was that Cox had made
a mistake as to the date. The murder
had been committed, not on June the
loth, but on June the nth.
And the names of the men who were
convicted along with Maxwell were
Derose and Connors. The only evidence
that the law had against them was the
fact of a marshal swearing to the seeing
of them in Yale on the day of the murder.
Added to this was the doctor's unsup-
ported assertion that their clothes were
stained with human blood.
All the while I was thinking of the
whole business, the date which Cox had
given me of the day of the murder kept
continually coming to me. The loth of
June, the loth of June, seemed to ring
in my ears. It was the wrong date, and
why it should come to me so persistently
was puzzling. Something curious was
working in my mind. I stopped
184 A Man Adrift
thinking of the murder, and tried to
Suddenly a light broke in on me.
Where was I on the loth of June ? This
question seemed all at once to be put
to me by something outside myself.
" Where were you ? Where were you ?
Where were you?" it said.
As if to answer it, a series of mind-
pictures flashed before me. They were
intensely vivid, and presented the happen-
ings of that day at Kamloops Lake.
I had it! I saw it all ! On the loth of
June Maxwell was with us at the shack.
It was the day when I jumped on the
gunwale of the boat and overturned it.
On the midday of the nth, the time of
the murder, it was impossible for him to
have been in Yale. He and Cox must
have been only six or eight miles from
Kamloops, for, as I now remembered,
they had not left us till nine o'clock that
morning, and by no chance could they
have reached Yale before late that night.
The Canadian Pacific right of way was
ugly travelling, and, as no rails had at
that time been laid past Kamloops, they
must have had to walk every step of the
My heart gave a leap. Here was a
clear case of alibi. I could save the boy.
Jimmy Murphy was in town, and he could
back up my testimony. So I determined
to go and see the Governor of the peni-
tentiary in New Westminster, and lay the
case before him.
But was I sure of all this ? Yes ! I
remembered distinctly that four days after
Cox and Maxwell had left us we were paid
off, and our pay-day was on the fifteenth
of every month. After that Murphy and
I had tramped it to Vancouver.
I soon found Murphy, and I told him
all about it, and of my intention to go
and see the Governor of the penitentiary.
Murphy remembered the date of Maxwell's
stay with us as exactly as I did, and he
said that he would help me all he could.
By this time some wind of my intention
had got round amongst the boys, and
there was quite an excitement.
I started for New Westminster.
1 86 A Man Adrift
New Westminster was just twelve miles
from Vancouver, and the road to it lay
through a thick, dark forest. In three
hours I was there.
After a lot of difficulty I was granted
an interview with the Governor. He had
been a colonel in the British Army, and
was a man with cold blue eyes and a
strong face. He listened to what I had
to say, and after some thought, granted
me permission to see Maxwell.
I was to see him that night in the
presence of two gaolers, and to talk to
him as to his whereabouts at the time
of the murder. If he supported what I
had said, without receiving any cue, the
Governor would see about taking further
When night came I was brought to
the door of his cell. I felt nervous
and curious as the door opened. I
There was Maxwell. He was heavily
manacled, but stood up in a bold, erect
way. The manacles, which he grasped
firmly with his left hand, so that he could
move easily, had a blue glisten. They
He looked better handsomer than
when I had seen him last. But his eyes
were shining strangely.
" Who is this ? " he asked, pointing to
" It's a friend of yours, who has come to
see if he can do you any good, said one
of the gaolers.
" Maxwell," 1 said, stepping forward,
and holding out my hand.
As I spoke he recognised me.
" Oh, it's you Reddy," taking my hand.
" I'm glad to see you."
I said nothing, but I looked into his
The gaoler then hinted to him in a
cautious way the reason of my visit, and
said it might benefit him to answer my
* Certainly/* he said. " I can't be any
worse off than I am. What do you want
to ask me, Reddy ? "
I looked at him again. "You remember
Kamloops?" I said.
A Man Adrift
"Yes! I swam after you in the lake
He smiled slightly. "Where's Murphy
and the other boys?"
"Oh, Murphy's in Vancouver, and I
don't know where the rest drifted to," said
I. And we talked on in this strain for
a little while.
" Maxwell, I'd like to speak to you
about your whereabouts on the nth of
June," I said.
The gaolers looked keenly at us both.
They were looking to see that I didn't
give Maxwell any sign as to the way he
should answer my question.
Maxwell suddenly sat down on his
bed. He covered his face with his
hands. The manacles gave a clank.
" The dates ! The dates ! " he muttered,
in an unsteady way, "They run before
He looked up again. His face was
convulsing with mania. I understood
now the meaning of the look that I had
noticed in his eyes when I entered the
cell. He was mad, and his madness
hinged on the idea of this date the date
that had occurred to me so suddenly and
strangely when I was thinking of him the
day before in Vancouver. My question
had set him off. He rose up and shouted
" On the nth of June, at the time of
the murder, I was in Yale. But I am
innocent. Who are you who asks me
questions ? Damn you all ! Get out of
here!" And he sprang at one of the
gaolers and knocked him down.
He was got under, after a hard and
The next day I went to the Governor
again, and asserted that Maxwell's saying
that he was in Yale at the time of the
murder was due to the giving way of his
mind through the strain put upon him,
and that I and others could prove that
his being there was an impossibility.
" The man admits that he was there
at the time," the Governor said, coldly,
" and that is the end of it."
This was all the satisfaction I could
get. I went back to Vancouver and told
Murphy. We were all broke up over it
190 A Man Adrift
knowing as we did that he must be
Afterwards we learned that Maxwell's
sentence was commuted to penal servitude
for life, because of insanity. i left
Vancouver soon after, and since then I
have drifted about and seen and known
many strange things.
But I have often wondered and thought
I LEFT Yokohama one April on the
barque Seraph. She was 1700 tons
burthen, and was bound for Vancouver
with a cargo of tea. I was one of the
crew, which, all told, counted ten hands.
We had quite a slow and uninteresting
time of it, as she was a typical lime-juicer,
and I need hardly say that we were elated
when, after a trip of seventy-five days,
we rounded Cape Flattery and entered
the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Perhaps I ought to explain that a lime-
juicer is a deep-water or long-voyage ship,
where you get nothing but your pound and
your pint, and where you get lime-juice
for the good of your health. The lime-
juice is alleged to be a preventative against
scurvy, and I must say that the taste of
192 A Man Adrift
it is ugly enough to prevent anything.
The captains and mates of this class of
vessel are invariably crusted cranks who
have forgotten all about everything
but sheets and ropes and sails and the
tricks of wind and water and weather.
The salt has entered their souls.
However, we were in the Straits, and a
pilot boarded us and brought us carefully
up the Gulf of Georgia and into the har-
bour of Vancouver. Here we were turned
loose upon the unsuspecting town.
In a day the wealth I had amassed at
lime-juicing had withered, so I had to
turn to and get some kind of a job. There
was a great deal of building going on in
the town, and I got work at carrying the
There is a great deal of knack in carry-
ing the hod. You have at once to be a
powerful man, and a man gifted with a
nice sense of balance. Really it is the
most artistic form of labouring work I
have ever had the good fortune to indulge
in. If you don't step just so upon the
ladder or scaffolding, or lean forward just
so, you and the hod will fall overboard.
But I am not going to say anything against
hod-carrying. All that I will say is that
it is work of an extremely interesting
It was while I was carrying the hod
that I heard of Similakameen. Miners
came along with Arabian Nights' stories
of how gold could be picked up there by
the handful. And the thirst for wealth
came upon me so strongly that carrying
the hod began to lose for me its fascina-
tion. The delights that attended the slow
climbing of a steep ladder with a heavy
load upon my shoulder began to pall. I
thought I might as well go off and make
a fortune with the rest of them.
But a difficulty presented itself. I had
not enough money to buy myself an outfit,
for the time-check which the boss con-
siderately presented to me for my prowess
at carrying the hod only amounted to ten
dollars, and, to make things more interest-
ing still, I found that I could only get
seven dollars for the check when I came
to cash it at a store.
194 A Man Adrift
An outfit, at the most meagre reckoning,
meant the possession of a pair of blankets,
a pickaxe and shovel, a fine wire sieve, a
good knife, and a revolver or a Winchester
rifle. Added to this, there was the getting
of bacon and flour and whisky, and the
fare to Fort Hope. No, seven dollars
wouldn't even gaze upon it.
My visions of quick, easy wealth were
becoming beautifully dim, and I was
fluctuating on the ragged edge of despair,
when who should come along but my ship-
mate, Bob one of the lads who had come
over with me from Yokohama on the
Seraph. We talked matters over, and I
found that he, too, had developed an in-
tense thirst for the wealth to be gained
in Similakameen. This was good, but,
what was much better and still more to
the point, was the fact that the night be-
fore he had made a big winning in a saloon
at draw-poker. He was able to get an
outfit and to spare, and he generously
proposed that we should become partners.
He would get me my outfit, he said.
Thus was the difficulty surmounted.
Similakameen, where the wealth was
patiently waiting for us, was a mining
camp, situated right in the heart of the
Selkirk Mountains. It was four hundred
miles away from Vancouver.
Our first point to make was Fort Hope.
With this end in view we walked over to
New Westminster, where we were to take
a steamer up the Fraser River.
We had to wait a few hours for the
steamer, and we put in the time by telling
each other all we would do when we got
back with our load of gold dust. " Nuggets
as well," Bob would reiterate to me. " Pure
nuggets. They're up there as big as your
fist. It won't be all dust we'll have to
carry." Then we would go off into a long
discussion as to which was the easier to
carry, nuggets or dust.
At last we were aboard the steamer and
on our way to Fort Hope. We had found
out that we were not going to have Simi-
lakameen all to ourselves. There were
others, as the saying goes. The steamer
was simply crowded with men of all kinds
rough and smooth and otherwise. I
196 A Man Adrift
heard a great deal of talk, and got a vast
number of tips about gold and its getting.
Everybody seemed to be giving every-
body else valuable points. I heard many
and wonderful schemes put forward for
the turning of streams from their courses
so as to get at the gold-laden sand which
lay over the bed rock. There was gold
in the bed of every stream and river in
the world, one man averred. In fact, this
man who was a little wild in the eyes
put forward a scheme for the turning off
of the Fraser River a river of tremendous
volume and quick flow, and three miles
wide in places. His eyes grew a little
wilder when I volunteered the opinion
that at least his scheme had the merit of
Fort Hope was something over two
hundred miles from Vancouver, and here
it was that our journey began in earnest.
We got off the steamer, and after going
three or four miles we were confronted
with a tote-trail, which seemed to run
sheer up over the tops of the mountains.
A tote- trail is made by Indians as they
tote, or carry, provisions and merchan-
dise along and over places that are in-
accessible for pack-horses and mules.
However, the whole crowd of us began
to string up the trail. We were only one
hundred and eighty miles from Similaka-
meen ; but this hundred and eighty miles
wanted a lot of doing, for, besides our-
selves, we had our blankets and weapons
and bacon and flour to carry and one
or two other things, including ammuni-
tion and whisky. In a big, broken-up
mountain - country whisky is invaluable.
Indeed, a gold-hunter would as soon think
of forgetting his flour bag as his big
leathern whisky flask.
We could make no more than twelve
miles a day at the outside, for the trail
was something woeful. Sometimes I
would sit down and wonder where I was
at. Gold was all very well, I used to
think, as I wiped my brow, but this trail
was going it a bit too stiff. Even the
sanguine Bob had to admit that we were
earning the " nuggets."
When night was coming on we used
198 A Man Adrift
to look round and collect wood to make a
fire. Then we would fry some bacon,
and make flapjacks with flour and water.
When supper was over we would light
our pipes, and smoke and talk. Our last
preparation for the night was to put a rope
in the form of a circle around the place
where we were going to sleep. Our
reason for doing this was that if snakes
crawled towards us during the night they
would stop with their heads at the rope
go around the circle and then go away
again. Snakes will do this. I don't
know the reason why. It may be that
they fear if they pass over the rope they
will get into a trap.
When we got the rope fixed, we would
wrap ourselves up in our blankets, and
lie down, turning our feet Indian- fashion
to the fire. We were so tired that we
would fall asleep the instant we stretched
ourselves out. At the break of dawn we
would get up, make our breakfast, load
ourselves up with our blankets and things,
and go on our way.
After the first day or so along the trail
we stopped talking about what we would
do when we got the gold.
Besides being hard, the trail was often
most dangerous. It was trying to the
nerves to have to crawl slowly with our
loads on a narrow ledge along the face
of a precipice that sheered down thousands
of feet. And usually there was a strong,
high wind blowing. Often I shuddered,
and wondered what would happen next.
The wind would almost seem to claw
at us as if it wanted to drag us down to
an awful death.
Miles out down the great mountains we
could always see the glint of some torrent
a sharp, sinister, white line. Again we
would see in the far distance small specks
moving along the trail. They were men
like ourselves, going on to Similakameen
for gold. They were before us and behind
us. All moving slowly on. On in quest
We were in the wild, hard country of
the Chilkats the Indians who always
kill. Many of us would leave our bones
here. A few of us would come back
200 A Man Adrift
laden with gold. And we were all going
It surely was not altogether the idea
of eventually getting gold that bound
us to this terrible trail. With it was
blended the instinct that prompts white
men to voluntarily put themselves in the
way of hardships and difficulties so that
they may surmount them.
After all, it was a fine thing to fight
along mile after mile through the clouds.
It was a fine thing to feel that one was
doing something that was hard and
worthy of achievement. It was some-
thing to climb across an almost inacces-
sible mountain chain to this Similakameen,
even if in the end we did not get the
gold! If we died well, other men had
died before us! Other men's bones had
lain whitening. We were not the first
men who had gone off and grappled
danger in search of treasure. If Fate
willed it that we were not to come back,
what of it? It was as good to die one
way as another.
How glorious and terrible were the
mountains ! And how silent. The dis-
tant roar of the torrents seemed but to
make more clear this strange, universal
silence. We passed through gloomy, ter-
rifying, vast canyons. We saw glaciers
hundreds of years old giving forth the
rays of the sun in a shimmering blaze of
North of us lay the great Klondike
region. And north of this again lay the
immense trackless region of the Midnight
AT last we had got to our journey's end.
We were in Similakameen. The first
thing we did was to stake out our claim.
There was not much difficulty about this,
as the limbs of the law, who sweat miners,
and make it awkward for them, had not as
yet got up into the mountains. The camp
had not become important enough, and,
besides, the journey was an ugly one.
Some of the men with whom we had
started in the steamer had got in before
202 A Man Adrift
us. Others were still straggling behind in
We rested for a day or so, as we were
used up through the hardships we had
endured along the trail. It had taken us
sixteen days to come the hundred and
The camp lay around the banks of a
creek, and ftv* ipi^g done was of the
most primitive kind placer mining. Get-
ting machinery up to a place like this for
the purpose of crushing ore was of course
quite out of the question. It was bad
enough to get flour up, for every ounce of
it had to be carried on the backs of Indians.
The loads were fastened on to their backs
with broad bands which were arranged so
as to pass around their foreheads. This
way of arranging the load brought into
play the powerful muscles of the neck, and
was a great help to the Indian in the carry-
ing of his load up steep and awkward
places. It was simply a utilising of the
force a man exerts when he throws his
head forward in the effort of climbing.
A thing that struck us hard when we
first got into camp was the fact that flour
was a dollar and a half a pound. Bacon
was something fabulous, and not to be
thought of for a moment. And, as we
had already made a heavy inroad into
our stock of provisions, we began to get
nervous. Bob, however, had some money
left, and he bought twenty pounds of flour
at the store. We would have to take our
chances of eking it out by hunting and
When I made inquiries from the other
miners concerning the big finds, I found
that imagination had helped out the stories
I had heard in Vancouver. True, one or
two men had struck big paying pans, but
there were lots of fellows who had struck
nothing. Many had left the place, and
when I asked why we had not met them I
was told that they had gone off for the
Fraser River along another trail. Miners
have a feeling against going back on the
same trail. If possible, they will find
Going to work was quite simple. All
we had to do was to build a rough wooden
204 A Man Adrift
cradle, and fasten across the top of it the
sieve we had brought with us from Van-
couver. Beneath this we had fixed a piece
of blanket to catch a certain heavy, black,
slimy sand as it oozed through the sieve.
The gold dust was in this sand.
When we were ready, I dug up a shovel-
ful of sand and gravel from the side of the
creek, and pitched it into the sieve on
the top of the cradle. Bob immediately
reached down his scoop into the stream,
lifted the water, and poured it slowly over
the sand and gravel, rocking the cradle
gently as he did so. When the fine, heavy
sand had sifted through, he detached the
sieve, and threw away the gravel and
coarse sand. Then I threw in another
shovelful or so, and exactly the same
operation was gone through again.
This was placer mining.
We were at it the whole of the day.
Sometimes Bob would take the shovel and
I the rocker for a change. Men were
scattered along the banks of the creek,
working as we were working, for nearly a
When night was coming on we stopped,
lifted off the sieve, took the blanket gently
out of the cradle, and brought it over to
the shack we had built for ourselves.
Here we dried it thoroughly at the fire
outside the front of the door. When dry,
we shook the sand out of it carefully, and
afterwards ran quicksilver through it to
attract the gold. When we melted off
the quicksilver the next day, there before
our eyes was the precious dust. It did us
good to see it. True, there were none of
Bob's " nuggets " in it, but still it was gold.
We could easily get the little heap on to
the point of a knife a little, dull, heavy,
yellow heap. Through it ran a few little
pieces about the size of a pin-head. "Your
nuggets/' I said to Bob. He laughed as
he carefully put the dust away into a little
gold-bag. Then, with a will, we went to
work again, cradling and washing the sand.
For the first few days we did very well,
and once Bob actually did find a little
nugget that weighed something over half
an ounce. He was wild with excitement
over it, and so, indeed, was I. We looked
206 A Man Adrift
at it eagerly, and passed it one to the other
several times, and tried hard to persuade
ourselves that it was heavier than it really
was. We could tell that it was pure gold
right through that there was no hard,
structural alloy running through it for it
was soft enough to give a little when we
squeezed it between the thumb and fingers.
This placer mining was the most excit-
ing work I had ever done. After all, we
could never tell what we were going to
find. Whenever I sank my shovel into
the sand there was no knowing whether or
not I might heave a nugget the size of my
fist into the sieve. Other men had done
so, and why not I ? It was delightful to
feel that perhaps I was lifting up on my
shovel a piece of gold the size of many
Spanish doubloons. Whilst I was digging
I was always thinking of gold doubloons.
The treasure I had read of in the stories
of the old pirates and the treasure I was
seeking after here in the mountains ran
together in my mind. The work was a
bit hard and steady, but I never minded
that. It appealed to the profound love of
chance that I shared in common with other
There was no fear now of our running
out of provisions, at any rate for a time.
At the store the gold dust was taken just
as money would be taken. And we were
able to indulge in the extreme luxury of
bacon. They had finely adjusted scales
to weigh the dust, and it was a sight to
watch the miners looking over and under
and around these scales to see if the
balance was absolutely true. Fellows
spoke of ounces and half -ounces and
quarter-ounces of gold as they would of
so many pounds or dollars.
At night poker was played a great deal
in the store, and when we got enough dust
ahead Bob went and took a hand in the
game. His usual good luck was with him.
This poker-playing helped out our digging
immensely. I must say that Bob was the
luckiest man at cards I have ever known.
Curiously enough, there was never a row
over the game. In fact, there was never
a row in the whole camp while we were
there. The reason for this was simple.
20 8 A Man Adrift
A row would mean business, for every
man was armed for all he was worth.
Someone would surely have been killed.
So the result was peace and amity amongst
a crowd who were in the main hard men.
And right here I must say that a mining
camp in any part of the world is as a rule
peaceful before the limbs of the law come
into it to extort blackmail from the miners
for themselves and their Governments. It
is the police who invariably provoke the
rows. Any man who has been in gold
rushes will attest to this.
Now and then a couple of miners would
start away from camp to go over the trail
off to Vancouver or Port Moody. They
had made their pile. On such an occasion
we would get together to see them off, and
give them a parting cheer for luck. But
often er men were going away who had
struck next to nothing, and who were
leaving because they had had enough of
it. In these cases we would club together
to get them some bacon and flour and
ammunition if they were short. The
primal conditions under which we lived
made us realise that it was our duty to
relieve when possible the necessities of
others. And it was not done with the air
of bestowing a favour. It was done simply
and as a matter of course.
Sometimes Bob and I would take a day
off and scour around for game. It was
as well not to be buying too much grub
at the store. Though it was a big game
country, it was awkward to stalk the game,
so we had to confine our attention to birds.
One of the men in the next claim to us
lent Bob a shot-gun with the understand-
ing that we were to whack up our kill
with them. We provided the ammunition,
which ran frightfully high at the store.
Quails were what we used to get mostly,
and we got a good few of them, owing
mainly, I suppose, to the fact of the gun
being of a large bore, and to the spreading
of the shot in the air.
Our claim gave forth a small, steady
yield. Bob's " nuggets " never arrived.
The worth of the pans through the whole
of the day averaged about sixty dollars.
Out of this, of course, a good deal had to
210 A Man Adrift
go for provisions. The men who kept
the store were the fellows who really got
the bulk of the gold. They took no risks,
but simply charged famine prices for
everything. To bring things to Simila-
kameen was, to be sure, most expensive,
but, like all middlemen, they took a double
and treble advantage of it. They neither
got the gold nor did they tote the pro-
visions. They just sat tight, and skimmed
the fat from the pot.
However, Bob still kept up his form at
poker, and this stood us in good stead.
Winning gold in the store from the other
miners was not perhaps so romantic as
getting it out of the earth in nuggets
but still it served.
After awhile our claim began to thin
out, and we went further up the creek,
and staked out another. Here our luck
was something about the same as it was
in the first claim just a small, steady
yield. Still, there was no use in repining,
for there were lots of fellows who struck
hardly anything at all.
We worked on for about six or seven
weeks, and then we began to think of
making tracks for the Fraser River. It
was the end of August, and it was just
as well to be getting back while the good
And one morning we counted things
up, and found that we would have four
thousand dollars' worth of dust clear after
getting a stock of grub and ammunition
two thousand dollars apiece. What with
Bob's skill at poker and our joint toil we
had not done so badly after all.
And the next day we packed up and
started from Similakameen.
XV. THE CH ILK ATS
BOB and I were in a hopeful mood as
we went back along the trail. True, we
had not made our fortune, but we had
managed to get to Similakameen all
right, and to come away with something
into the bargain. Our work, of course,
was still cut out for us, but we had made
the main point, which really was to go and
see what the place looked like. The possi-
bility of getting a fortune had only an in-
cidental bearing on the project. At least,
that was the way it appeared to us now as
we talked the matter over. Bob laughed
over his " nuggets," and said that we had
enough to carry over the trail as it
The trail we were taking was one that
skirted to the north. We had been told
The Chilkats 213
by Sfwashes who toted provisions into
camp that it was easier than the one we
had come by. We found this to be a fact.
The only drawback was that it would run
us on to the north fork of the Fraser
River instead of running us out at
Fort Hope. This would mean perhaps
delay in getting a boat down the river.
However we chanced it. One cannot
have everything. Besides, the trail was
new to us.
After we had been out three or four
days we came across two men who were
returning after prospecting to the north.
They told us of having struck a place rich
in pay dirt, but that it was impossible to
work it because the water was too far away.
This is one of the difficulties in gold-hunt-
ing. Besides finding the gold in paying
quantities one must also find the water to
wash it out.
These men, who were Canadians, also
told us a piece of news they had heard
that made us feel anxious. It was to the
effect that the Chilkats were " out." This
meant that our bones would stand a good
214 A Man Adrift
chance of lying in the mountains if they
came upon us, for the Chilkats were hard,
savage, fighting Indians. They were a
different race altogether from the Siwashes,
who were, generally speaking, inoffensive,
and amenable to the missionaries. A
Chilkat was as ugly and as dangerous on
the warpath as a Sioux Indian. However,
to do them justice, they never went out with-
out being given a good reason for it in some
way or another by white men. But this
thought was rather cold comfort just then.
The Canadians and ourselves decided
to keep together on the trail. Four would
have a better chance of standing off a rush
We kept the sharpest look-out just as
we were going in or going out of a canyon.
Then was the greatest danger of falling
into an ambush, for the Chilkats were in
the habit of posting themselves amongst
the big rocks that lay around the mouth.
Here they would lie in wait for days for
white men to come along. They could
not only hear men coming along the trail,
when they were miles and miles away,
The Chilkats 215
but they could tell how many were
coming. It was said they did this by
going up into a certain part of the
canyon and listening. Sound acts in a
strange way in the mountains, and the
Indians knew the mountains and their
Going through these gloomy canyons
filled us with dread. They looked so dark
and evil, and tremendous. And so still.
It was when we were in the middle of one
that our nerves were strung to the hardest
tension. Death seemed to be hanging
about us to be ahead of us to be be-
hind us. The vengeance of the Indians
seemed to be lurking in the immense, sinister
shadows thrown down upon us from the
vast, black walls of the canyon. It is
terrible to live momentarily in expectation
of violent death.
At night when we lay down we did not
build a fire. It was not a safe thing to do,
for a fire is seen a long way through the
mountains. We used to go off three or
four hundred yards from the trail. Each
of us took a turn at standing watch whilst
2i6 A Man Adrift
the rest slept in their blankets. But at
night as long as we had no fire we were
fairly safe. The danger was in the day-
But in time men will get used to any-
thing, and at last we got used to the idea
of being rushed at any moment. We
began to be ourselves to laugh and
joke and talk. Perhaps the Chilkats
were not "out" at all! It might have
been but a false report. And our
spirits rose as we tramped along. Men
can't stay at a tension for ever. If
the Chilkats wanted us they would come
for us !
However, we kept up the same sharp,
We were getting well over the trail.
In five or six days more we would be at
the north fork of the Fraser. Here we
would be all right. We could get to Fort
Hope without any trouble, for, as luck
would have it, the Canadians knew a half-
breed who had a boat big enough to take
us all down the river. From there Bob
and I could go over to Vancouver or Port
The Chilkats 217
Moody, and have a little time with the
gold we had brought from Similakameen.
I suggested to Bob that perhaps we might
as well pay for a passage to Europe before
we had the " time," so as to see what going
as a passenger was like. But Bob didn't
see it. And one of the Canadians said he
wouldn't live in Europe if he were given a
town in it for nothing. The North-west
was good enough for him ! He had lived
in it for twenty years ! He was very sore
on civilisation, was this Canadian. He
said that in it men were most cruel to
one another. They were worse than the
Chilkats, who were, maybe, trailing us
now to kill us !
I was in the thick of a strong argument
with -him as to this assertion when Bob,
who was going on in front, made a sign to
us. We knew at once what was up. The
Chilkats were coming down upon us ! We
were in for it. As there were only four of
us, they would be sure to try and rush us.
" Down!" shouted Bob, throwing himself
flat. We dropped, too, barely in time to
miss a volley that seemed to come
2i8 A Man Adrift
from everywhere. It was hardly the
place where we would have expected
the Chilkats, for we were nowhere near
We stayed down flat for a few seconds
it is hard to hit a man when he is lying
prone on the ground and then all at once
there broke out a most horrible whooping
and screeching. Still, we could see no one
as yet. The screeching was enough to
upset one, but by this time we had got a
hold upon ourselves. We would work for
all we were able. The bad part of it was,
however, that we were not under cover,
and it would not have paid to try and get
to it. Where the Chilkats were it was
hard to tell. Indians can hide behind
nothing. The noise seemed to be going
on all around us. "I don't think there's so
many of 'em after all," said the Canadian
with whom I had been having the
Suddenly an Indian seemed to spring
up out of the ground. He was hardly over
twenty feet from us, and was rushing full
at us with a yell, when the Canadian raised
The Chilkats 219
himself easily and dropped him with his
Winchester. The ball had gone through
his body, and he fell over on his face. The
knife he had brandished shot out of his
hand towards us, and Bob grabbed it.
" Up ! Up ! " I shouted and we were up
to meet the rush, back to back. They
came for us, yelling wild, savage-faced
men, clad in skins and leggings. They
had dropped their guns, and were on
us with their knives. It was then that
I found out that there is no weapon
like a revolver of big calibre for close,
The whole thing was over. The
Canadian was right. There were not so
many Indians, after all no more than a
dozen, but they made noise enough for a
hundred. Poor old Canadian ! He was
gone. A big Indian had knifed the life
out of him. It was a slashing up-stroke.
The Canadian would have been all right,
but somehow the barrel of his Winchester
got in his way when the Indian was close
up to him, and, as he was trying to turn,
220 A Man Adrift
the knife went into him. This Indian
gave more trouble than all the rest put
together. After finishing the Canadian,
he gave Bob a jab in the shoulder, and
would have finished him, too, only that I
got in on him in time with the revolver.
When he was out of the way the fight
slackened, and finally what was left of the
Chilkats drew off.
I took Bob's coat off, and, getting out
my needle and thread, I stitched up the
slash in his shoulder as well as I could.
He was nearly done up through loss of
blood. The Canadian's partner was cry-
ing over him. They had been together
ten years, and it took him hard to see him
dead. He was lying close to the big
Chilkat, and the worst of it was we had to
leave him as he lay. We could not dig
a grave for him, for there was nothing
but rock all around us. And, again, it
would not do for us to wait about too
much, for the Chilkats might come back
Again we were on the trail. This time
we had to go very slowly on account of
The Chilkats 22 1
Bob. I was beginning to be afraid about
him. He seemed to get weaker all the
time. A wounded man needs rest above
everything else, and we were not able to
take it. We had to walk him slowly
The Chilkats did not bother us
When we were two days' journey from
the north fork of the river we fell in with
an English hunting party who were very
kind to us, and who helped us out.
They gave me some quinine for Bob
and some linen to make a proper
bandage for his wound. Only for meet-
ing them I'm afraid he would have
Finally we got to the north fork. We
stayed here for a day or so with the half-
breed whom the Canadian knew. Then
he took the three of us down the river to
Fort Hope. The voyage in the boat did
I was glad when the whole thing was
over and I had got Bob safe to Vancouver.
There he had to go on the sick list for a
222 A Man Adrift
time. When he was right again we went
over to Victoria to take our ease and to
put the boys on the best way of going to
XVI. FROM VICTORIA
IN the old days people took life very
easily at Victoria, in Vancouver Island.
They opened their shops late in the morn-
ing, and closed them up early in the after-
noon. Over their dinners they lingered
Jong. They smoked to soothe themselves,
and talked calmly about nothing in par-
ticular. If there were not enough holidays
in the year they made more, so as to
supply properly their strong demand for
rest. Food was very cheap and easy to
get, and white labour commanded a high
price. The Si wash Indian sold the game
he had killed to the white man for next to
nothing. It cost almost less for a deer
bought from him than it would to buy
enough powder and shot to kill it. Salmon
was still cheaper and easier to get. This
224 A Man Adrift
state of affairs was, to be sure, favourable
to the inhabitants, for their command of
that good and sufficient amount of leisure
which poets and philosophers say is so
necessary for man's best development.
Bob and I got to Victoria when the old
days had slipped as it' were into the new
days a trick they have. The former
restful state of affairs had passed away.
The hurry-up spirit of the near-by United
States had crept, or rather rushed, into
the town. Everybody was hustling. Men
were more plentiful, and labour was
cheaper. The shops opened early and
closed late. The people were forgetting
to linger, and they had stopped studding
the year with holidays. The men who
had a yearning for leisure were gradually
being forced to leave town and go up into
the northern part of the island. There
they could live with the Siwashes and do
nothing but fish a little, hunt a little, and
laze and smoke to their heart's content.
This Victoria was the finest town in
all British Columbia. About thirteen
thousand people lived in it. The hurry-up
Victoria to Nanaimo 225
and rush-around spirit had resulted in the
giving to it of straight, paved highways
and drives. The better the roads the
swifter the rush, evidently became the
motto of the people, who had arrived at
the conclusion that it was necessary for the
well-being and happiness to try their level
best to get twenty-five hours' time out of
The Chinese were well represented
here. They had on the face of it arrived
at the conclusion that there were flowerier
places even than the Flowery Land, and
that this was one of them. They washed
clothes, cooked, did light labouring work,
and, above all, looked unpicturesque.
They were an unstartling and uninterest-
ing lot. They embodied prosaicism. The
Victorians were always grumbling about
them. They said that when they came to
a country they carried hard times with
them on their backs. The assertion was
quite true, mainly because the white
capitalist used them as a means to grind
down and starve to death his white
brother. In the long-winded, bitter dis-
226 A Man Adrift
cussions I heard about them no one ever
brought out this point. Neither did any-
one mention the fact that gold-greedy
white men smuggled them across frontiers
and through harbours in defiance of their
own laws and exclusion acts.
Just before the close of the restful
epoch, Victoria, I heard, was a rather
trying place to live in. The old-timers
said it was the rendezvous of outlaws, off-
colour adventurers, and other kindred
gentry who had departed in haste from
different parts of the world for the good
of their health. An old white-whiskered
Victorian, who did me the honour of
taking a drink with me, told me that the
gold-find in Similakameen attracted them,
and that Victoria was their stopping-off
place. I was not aware that Similakameen
had been known so long, but I listened
with the respect that is due to the aged,
and when I thought that the time was
ripe I asked him to have another drink.
He took the drink, and then went on to
tell me that these fellows were always
raising rows and ructions, maiming and
Victoria to Nanaimo 227
killing each other, and breaking the peace
generally. They had little time for work,
and plenty of time for fighting. As soon
as they made a stake at the placer mines,
he said, they would come in and spend
it, and call the town to witness that they
were spending it. At this I suggested to
the old-timer that they must have been a
desirable acquisition to the regular popula-
tion in the sense of affording an element
of excitement to off-set and balance the
easiness and sleepiness of the town. The
old man paused, and thought a little. But
I can't say he rose to my suggestion.
Instead, he asserted that it would have
been all right and proper if these fellows
had only fought with and exterminated
one another, but now and then they had
the nerve to turn their attentions to the
old-time inhabitants. The result was that
they were suppressed vigorously. They
found to their cost that the old-timers
knew a thing or two more about fighting
than they did.
At this the aged, white- whiskered man
finished his drink.
228 A Man Adrift
Not long after this Bob and I found
ourselves strapped. Making valiant efforts
to relieve the Saharan thirst of bar-room
crowds soon eased us of what we had
brought from Similakameen. Fellows
would listen admiringly to our recitals of
our adventures along the trail, and then
calmly borrow from us.
So we left for Vancouver.
Here I went to the Globe Hotel and
made a borrow from Ben Woods, the pro-
prietor. Then it was that Bob conceived
the brilliant idea of going over to Nanaimo,
a town in the northern part of Vancouver
Island. The brilliancy of the idea lay in
the fact that we had never been there.
Before we thought of starting, however,
we took the precaution of spending the
money I had borrowed. Then we worked
our passage across the straits on a big
It was beginning to snow when we got
to Nanaimo, and things began to look
rather bad for us. The town had a
mouldered and worn appearance, due, I
suppose, to the incessant rains. On the
Victoria to Nanaimo 229
coast in British Columbia it rains steadily
for at least five months in the year.
It was a dull wooden grey town ; and
it was snowing in it ; and night was
coming on and Bob and I had no money.
We walked dolefully along the main street
trying to think as to ways and means. A
knotty problem was before us. Where
should we get something to eat, and where
should we sleep that night ? We had our
blankets with us, but going outside the
town to sleep out was not to be thought
of. It was snowing.
We had got to the end of the street,
and were standing for a moment. Over
across the way was a saloon with windows
well lit up, and looking altogether cheerful
an oasis in the midst of darkness and
snow and damp. How we would have
liked to have gone in ! But, alas ! we
hadn't the price. I could not help but
think of the money we had flung around
so freely when we were telling the fellows
in Victoria all about things. The thought
was a useless one though it did bear
most exasperatingly upon the point. I
230 A Man Adrift
turned it over in my mind, or, rather, it
turned itself over in my mind. If but
the if was a big one.
Men were going into the saloon, for it
was Saturday night, and they were coming
to invest part of their wages in a little
jollity and sociability. Round about
Nanaimo were coal mines, and these were
the miners. I could tell that they were
coal-miners by the set and walk of them,
for I belonged to the North of England,
where one is in the habit of seeing them
Bob and I still gazed yearningly at the
saloon. Neither of us said a word.
All at once an idea broke in on me.
It was a simple idea, but the more I
examined it the more luminous it got. I
turned and said a few words to Bob, and
he grinned with approval.
We walked across the road and into
A lot of men were drinking at the bar.
Yes, they were all coal-miners, and the
most of them were men from the north
of England. There was no mistaking
Victoria to Nanaimo 231
their strong, hard-looking frames and in-
1 ' Mates," said I, in a loud voice, "me
and my mate here have just come over
from Vancouver. Before that we were in
Similakameen, but luck was against us,
and we had it rough coming over the
trail. If you don't mind, I'd like to sing
you a song or two. If anyone likes to
give a trifle after, we should be thankful.
My mate here will go round. I come
from the north of England."
I had struck the right note.
" Wheer abouts does tha' come from ? "
said one man, in a broad Lancashire
accent. " Monchester," I said, with a
smile. " Eh, lad," he said, as he grasped
my hand, " tha' knows Bowton. Ah come
from theer. Thee and thy mate come
and have a sup wi' me." He ordered
drinks for us.
We were all right. We had got to the
It turned out that there were several
Lancashire men in the crowd. It did me
good to hear the good old broad burr
2 32 A Man Adrift
again. A man who belonged to Heywood
" Yowwood," he called it treated us
next. He had been away from Lanca-
shire for twenty years, but his accent was
as rich as if he had only left it the day
before. We were getting on swimmingly.
It turned out that the landlord also was a
Lancashire man. To use a placerism, we
had struck big paying pans.
After this I sang.
My first song was "Tom Bowling."
Many of them had often heard it sung in
the Old Country. They applauded when
I had finished. " Hey, lad, that's good ! "
said the man from " Bowton," and the
drinks were again in evidence. Then the
landlord asked us if we were hungry, and
when we said we were, he brought us
back into the parlour, and gave us a big
supper. He was a jolly-looking, heart)'
man, was the landlord a typical, red-
faced, old English tavern landlord. He
looked as if he might have been suddenly
dropped into this far - away place from
" Owdham " or " Bowton."
After supper I was in great form, and
Victoria to Nanaimo 233
sang several more songs in the bar-room.
Then Bob went round with the hat. He
collected over fifteen dollars. We were
all right. And that night we went over
and slept at the house of the man from
XVII. WITH THE INDIANS
THE man from "Bowton" said that he
would get us a job in the coal mines.
But that hardly suited us. Toil in the
open air was bad enough, but toil down
in the darkness of the mine was something
to get away from altogether. So I ex-
plained to our friend that we were sailors,
and therefore accustomed to good, strong,
fresh air. Besides, Bob's lungs were in
a delicate condition, I added. Bob's looks
hardly bore out my statement, and I was
afraid the man from " Bowton " would
comment upon the fact. However, to
our relief, he let the subject of work
Whilst we were in Nanaimo we came
within an ace of being Shanghaied. Being
Shanghaied means being taken aboard a
vessel against your will when she is on
With the Indians 235
the point of sailing and being forced to
do a sailor's work upon her, Men are
usually Shanghaied when they are drunk,
or when they are drugged, as the case
may be. The thing often happens in a
wharf groggery. A man is hustled out
when he is half unconscious, put aboard
a boat, and taken over to the vessel
which is lying outside ready to make
sail. This way of getting a ship its
complement of hands is practised
more on the Pacific Coast than any-
where else. The custom originated in
When the game was tried upon Bob
and myself we were neither drunk nor
drugged. It was the day but one after
my singing for the Lancashire men in
the saloon, and we were holding on as
tight as we could to the money Bob had
collected, for we wanted it to buy flour
and bacon to take with us to Departure
The game was played in a simple and
original way. A man who looked like
a stevedore stopped us on the main
236 A Man Adrift
street, and asked us if we wanted a job
unloading a ship at forty cents an hour.
We said we did, and he told us to come
along with him. He went down to the
edge of the wharf, where he got into a
yawl, bidding us do the same. Then he
pulled straight out into the bay. I
thought it rather curious that the ship we
were going to work on was not tied up
to the wharf, but for the moment I said
He went on pulling out farther and
farther. Finally, I thought that the time
was ripe for Bob and myself to get a little
light on the subject. I asked the man
where the ship was. He shipped an oar,
and pointed to a vessel that lay off half
a mile away. "Out there," he said. I
looked at her. She was a big, full-rigged
ship. The man bent himself to his oars
again pulling strong. I thought a little,
and then I dropped to the whole scheme.
He was out to Shanghai us ! Once aboard
the full-rigger we would have a job to get
ashore again !
"Belay," I said to him. "Turn back."
With the Indians 237
He stopped pulling, and said : " It's all
right. Don't you want the job ? " I
laughed, and Bob laughed. " No," I re-
plied, " we don't want the job just yet."
But the man was a bit obstinate. He
told us that it was all right, and that
he would have to pull us there any-
how. At this I stood up in the boat,
and asked him if he could swim. He
knew what I meant, and he turned back
When we got on the wharf again I
turned round and struck him in the
Departure Bay was only six miles away
from Nanaimo, and we walked up there
after we had bought some provisions at a
store. Our plan was to find a deserted
shack on the edge of the forest and en-
sconce ourselves there for the winter.
We would have an easy time of it there
along with the Siwash Indians who lived
round about. Bob and I had heard such
a lot about them and the calm life that
they led that we thought it would be as
well if we took it on for a time. White
238 A Man Adrift
men in Victoria had told us that there
were lots of shacks lying around that
fellows had deserted after the life had
palled upon them.
It turned out as we had been told. We
did find a suitable shack. And also we
found quite a number of white men who
were living with the Indians. Many of
them had taken squaws for their wives.
They were most hospitable, and lent us
the pots and pans we needed. One old
man had lived there for twenty years.
He gave the life big praise. He said he
wouldn't live in civilisation now for any-
thing. There was nothing for it but to
work all your days like a dog, and die
in the end like a cur! His talk put
me in mind of the talk of the poor
old Canadian who was knifed by the
These Si wash Indians were in no way
like the Chilkats, who were big, strapping,
straight fellows, with savage eyes. The
Si washes were small, stockily-built men,
with flat, mild faces. They liked white
men, and tolerated the missionaries who
With the Indians 239
gave them religion mixed with presents.
Some of them were the quaintest-looking
little men I had ever set eyes upon. With
their tall, conical hats made out of bark,
they looked exactly like large gnomes.
One could imagine them stepping up from
out of the earth.
Their language sounded most strange.
It was an odd, moist language that seemed
to be without consonants. It was hard
for a white man to get the hang of it.
When talking to a Siwash one had usually
to fall back upon Chenook. Chenook was
a polyglot language invented by the traders
so that they might the more easily do the
different tribes of Indians out of all they
had. This language only contained about
three hundred words, and was easy to
Soon after we got fixed up comfortably
in our shack, all of us white men were
invited by the Siwashes to assist in a most
curious ceremony that is, it was most
curious from the standpoint of practical,
A potlatch was given. A potlatch x was
240 A Man Adrift
a big feast, and it was got up in the
following manner : A Siwash would save
up all he could for years. Sometimes,
indeed, he would be saving up all his life.
He would deny himself everything so as
to be able to gather together wealth of
all kinds rifles, blankets, fishing-nets,
knives, ammunition, money, and every-
thing. When he had become rich he
would give a feast. To this feast every-
one would be invited ; it mattered not
whether they were of the tribe or not, it
mattered not whether they were strangers,
friends, or enemies. Even race did not
matter. The stray, passing white man
of the race who had crushed them and
robbed them of their country was invited
to the potlatch as warmly as if he were
of the tribe. And the feast went on.
Presents were given to everyone. Every-
one ate and drank and made merry till the
last of the wealth was gone.
This was a potlatch.
The Indian who gave it had, as reward,
the knowledge that he was honoured by
his tribe as a good and generous man.
With the Indians 241
To give a big potlatch was the great
ambition of the Indian's life, just as it is
the great ambition of the white man's life
to amass gold for himself, even though he
knows he must get it out of blood and
sin and misery.
The religion of the Indian taught him
to amass wealth so that he might give it
At this potlatch a feeling of disgust and
shame came over me when I thought of
the men of my own race who had the
presumption to try and thrust their religion
on a race who possessed a religion of their
own that could impel them to such noble
and fine acts. By the fruit shall one know
the tree. By the acts shall one know of
the worth of religions.
The potlatch was given in a great tent
far away in the forest, and Bob and I got
for presents blankets, ammunition, and
some things of which we were in need
for our shack. The feast lasted four days.
We had the finest time men could have
singing and dancing and eating and
drinking. We felt so much at home.
242 A Man Adrift
This Indian hospitality was so sincere.
You were not asked because they knew
you, or because you might be interesting.
You were asked because you were a human
There was an old Indian with whom I
got on particularly well. We both tried
to tell each other all we knew. He was
a nice old fellow, with an intelligent face
and kindly eyes.
When the potlatch was over we white
men went back to our shacks on the edge
of the forest, and the old fellow, who had
lived out of civilisation for twenty years,
and who had had experience of many pot-
latches, told me that Bob and I ought to
settle down with the Indians and live our
lives out with them. Lots of white men
had married squaws, he argued he had
married one in fact ! and they turned
out to be the best wives going. And the
life was easy, too ! You did what you
liked, and you were responsible to no one
but yourself. In the summer time you
could get all the salmon you wanted, and
you could salt enough down for the winter.
With the Indians 243
Flour and tobacco were easy to get, and
the forest was full of game. And so the
old man ran on. The only drawback was
the missionaries. They were a lot of loaf-
ing hypocrites, who corrupted the Indians,
and who tried to spring a religion upon
them that was not so good as their
This was a strong opinion for the old
man to give vent to concerning the mis-
sionaries. But I must say that experi-
ence has shown me that the opinion was
based upon a correct deduction from
One would think that to conquer and
subjugate a race was bad enough, without
afterwards sending out men to insult this
race by telling them that their religion
was a false one. Besides, even when looked
at from the low standpoint of expediency,
it is impolitic to allow the religion of a
race that is called " savage " to be inter-
fered with. Men will forgive you for
beating them in war, but they will not
forgive you for interfering with their in-
herited ideas of what is sacred and holy.
244 A, Man Adrift
Missionaries often undo the doings of
armies and great generals.
The old man who lived with the Siwashes
was right in what he said.
XVIIL A NEW PHASE
IN 'Frisco I went on the stage. I had
become tired of the sea and the mountains
and the Indians, and I thought I would
like to try for awhile the tinsel and glitter
and ease of the stage. The idea first
formed itself in my mind in Nanaimo,
where I returned after living with the
Siwash Indians several months at De-
parture Bay. Bob stayed with them. I
never saw him again.
In Nanaimo I had been singing in the
saloons, and several people had said to
me, " Why don't you go down to 'Frisco
and go on the stage ? "
And at last I found myself at the foot
of Market Street in 'Frisco, wondering.
I had just deserted the vessel upon which
I had shipped from Nanaimo. I was in
246 A Man Adrift
'Frisco! But how was I to get on the
stage ? That was the rub. I possessed a
hardened constitution, a belt and a sheath
knife, a used - up merchant sailor's suit
which I had on me, and coin of the realm
to the amount of four dollars and a half.
This was the extent of my capital through
and through. And I was brown and hard-
looking and weather beaten as tough a
looking specimen of the genus homo as
one could lay eyes on.
I had been told in Nanaimo to go to
the Tivoli Opera House on Eddy Street,
and I went there. It was eleven in the
morning, and I saw the spruce-looking
singers going in for rehearsal. I watched
them from across the road. My courage
had deserted me, and I was afraid to go
in and ask to be taken as a singer. The
hurry and bustle of the town after the
quietude of life in the solitude of the
mountains, and with the Indians in the
forest, confused me. Civilisation was be-
ginning to get on my nerves.
However, I plucked up went in and
saw the conductor, Billy Furst. He looked
A New Phase 247
at me in an astonished way I looked so
rough, and so unlike a vocalist. He asked
me who and what I was, and where I
came from. I told him that I had been
living with Indians in Vancouver Island,
and that I had come down to San Fran-
cisco to go on the operatic stage. I was
tired of sailoring, I said. He laughed,
but tried my voice. The trial satisfied
him, and then he asked me if I could read
music. I could. Then he engaged me
for the chorus.
When I was a boy in the North of
England I used to spend my sixpences in
going to the gallery of the theatre when
an opera was on. I was very fond of
music. I had heard the great tenor,
Joseph Maas, sing in the different operas.
The love of music stimulated me to try
and pick up a knowledge of it. I managed
to learn to read a little by myself. In my
knockings around afterwards I studied it
up whenever I could. I used to buy
vocal scores, and practise reading at sight.
Thus I managed to learn to read even
difficult music. I remember when I worked
248 A Man Adrift
at Shaft 19 going to New York one pay
day and buying a score of Verdi's " Aida,"
and studying it hour after hour when I
had done work. This ability to read music
was the only thing literate I had about
me. It now served me in good stead,
for, in place of having to tackle a lime-
juicer that was going a long way off to
some vague, distant place I was able to
tackle the tinsel and glitter and ease of
the stage at the munificent salary of eight
dollars a week. Billy Furst told me that
was all they paid raw chorus singers who
knew nothing in particular about the
I won't go into all that passed that
memorable morning between the conductor
and myself and the singers who stood
round wonder-struck, gazing on me as if
I were some wild animal. But I must
say that when I was on the stage that
night the opera being given was
" Orpheus and Eurydice " the strangest
feeling came over me that I ever had
in my life.
The transition was so abrupt. It was
A New Phase 249
coming right from the midst of life with
the Indians in Nanaimo to the midst of
a comic opera company that gaudy,
brilliant flower of civilisation. To say
that I was bewildered would be to put
it in the mildest way possible. I was
stunned knocked out. Imagine it! Here
was soft, grand music, and brilliant light
and colour, and captivating, lovely white
women, who would every now and then
come up to me and ask me how I liked
living with the Indians, and what sort of
a life it was. My story had circulated
round, and I was hard-looking and tough-
looking enough to look my story.
I was not playing as yet, to be sure.
I was just standing in the wings, wearing
my weather-beaten merchant sailor clothes.
Furst thought that it was as well for me
to come and see what the stage was like
as soon as possible.
After all, getting taken on here was the
purest kind of luck. The odds were a
thousand to one against me. It just
chanced that the conductor took an in-
terest in me. At the time they didn't
250 A Man Adrift
really want singers. If I had not caught
on as I did I would have had to ship out
As I was a sailor I was sent up into
the flies to help the fly-man with the ropes
attached to the drops and borders and
curtains. This was at the conductor's
suggestion. He told the management
that I could put the time in like this
while I was waiting for the next opera
to be put on. I don't think I was of
much use to the fly-man, but I suppose
that this was an excuse put forward by
Furst so that I could draw my salary.
It was a saving management.
I found that I could live well in 'Frisco
on eight dollars a week. Food was cheap
there. For a quarter one could get a
good course dinner and a small bottle of
wine, and not be charged anything extra
for coffee. A good breakfast could be
got for fifteen cents, and a room for two
dollars a week. The mildness of the
climate made it possible to live on almost
one meal a day. After roughing it like I
had been the change was delightful.
A New Phase 251
The first opera that was put on was
" Erminie," a beautiful, bright opera. I
enjoyed the rehearsals very much. At
first I was an object of curiosity to the
other chorus singers, but after a while
they got used to me.
When the night came I was as nervous
as if I were going to play a big part. As
I stood on the stage the lights and the
watching faces behind them produced a
curious, chilling effect on me. I had, of
course, sung before an audience before,
but then I was near to them, was of them.
Here the people were so far away and
so still and quiet and critical. There
seemed to be an air of passive hos-
tility about them. And I felt as if
somehow I was more looked at than
But the nervous feeling soon wore off.
The magic and vitality of the music and
the scene and the glowing lights got into
my blood. The strange charm of the
stage thrilled me. That wonderful,
subtle, alluring charm ! It seemed to me
as if I had never really lived before.
2 $2 A Man Adrift
That first night on the stage ! It marked
a new phase in my life.
My comrades in the chorus were made
up chiefly of Germans, Frenchmen, and
Italians. They were an odd lot of men
unlike any I had ever come into contact
with before. They were, on the whole,
cultivated and intelligent men.
In one way they were all alike. All of
them thought they had wonderful voices
and just and true methods of producing
tone. They did not think much of the
principals as singers. One or other of
them was always saying how well they
could play the principal part if they only
got a chance at it. If they only got a
chance at it ! Poor chorus singers ! This
attitude of mind of theirs was so human
and pathetic. One of the hard things in
life is to feel that you have never had a
chance to play a principal part.
I did not stay long at the Tivoli. But
it was mainly through my own fault. I
was always quarrelling with the Germans.
The life I had led had made me over-
ready to fight. Billy Furst, who was
A New Phase 253
favourably disposed towards me, inter-
ceded several times with the manage-
ment on my behalf.* But at last I kicked
up too big a row.
I got discharged.
After this, life became rather hard for
me. I had not been able to save a great
deal out of my eight dollars a week. I
could have gone back to follow the sea
again any time I wished, but I had had
enough of it.
This was about the time I met Ward.
We were somewhat in the same fix, and
we thought we might as well join forces.
It would be cheaper for us to live
We occupied the same small room. All
the details of how we managed to live
would be hard to tell, for the effort we
had to make on each particular day was
so strenuous that it blotted out completely
nearly everything that had happened on
the preceding day. It was each day for
itself, and be thankful that yesterday had
passed, and to-morrow had not yet come.
Our great aim in life was to get some-
254 A Man Adrift
thing to eat, and by hook or crook find
the two dollars a week for our room.
On one occasion the landlady told us
that we should have to get out on the
next day. She was suave, but firm. She
wanted the lucre. Besides, we were a
week behind already, and she hazarded
the opinion that we would soon be
another week behind, and then where
would she come in ? All this and other
things she told us in a suave but firm
tone. Steel in velvet is a bad thing to
Something had to be done, and done
quickly. But how was I to define that
something? The only thing that was
clear in my mind was that whatever the
something was, I would have to be the
one to do it, for Ward was not to be
depended upon. He was a nice fellow,
but he lacked initiative and vigour of
action. In tight places he always looked
That night fortune favoured the brave.
I borrowed a quarter, and with it I won
ten dollars. It happened like this :
A New Phase 255
The baritone of the Tivoli Opera House
was shaking dice at a bar in Market Street
with two of his friends. They all knew
me, and when I sauntered in they asked
me as a matter of course to have a drink.
I assented. As I was taking the drink I
stood watching them, wishing the while
that I could take part in the game.
Finally I plucked up and tried to borrow
a quarter from one of them. " Just for a
shake," I put it. But he didn't see it.
He said it was unlucky to lend money to
a man and then gamble with him for it.
The baritone, however, was not super-
stitious. He lent me a quarter, and said
he would win it back off me just for fun.
But before he knew where he was I had
won ten dollars off him. Poor baritone !
He tried to double or quit, but I won
every throw. I had the luck of the man
who is in his last ditch. The baritone
had been paid his salary that night at the
Tivoli, but I'd have won it all and every-
thing else in sight. He stopped, however,
and as no one else would play with me I
came away jubilant, blessing the man who
256 A Man Adrift
had invented dice. Ward and I were
saved. How astonished he was when I
woke him up, as he lay in the bed in our
little room, and rattled the big silver
dollars under his nose !
There were days when Ward and I
abstained from food altogether. We were
unable even to raise the modest ten cents
that would procure us two drinks, and a
go at the free-lunch counter. The merits
and demerits of the free-lunches of the
neighbouring, and even the distant,
saloons were well known to us. One
was good for its soup at one o'clock. At
another the corned beef was fine. And at
the saloon on O'Farrell Street you could
eat all you were able without the bar-
tender looking at you in a pained and
pointed way. The food was plentiful,
but somewhat coarse of quality at some
places, while at others it was choice but
Of course, the climate of California is
delightful. The air is clear and bright
and full of life. But Ward and I couldn't
eat the climate in our trying, hungry hours.
A New Phase 257
One evening we were holding one of
our consultations. We were standing on
the corner of Eddy and Market Streets.
Our theme was how and where we should
eat, for we hadn't eaten anything since
the morning of the day before. Our luck
seemed to have gone from us altogether.
Different plans were brought up by us
in turn, but none of them seemed to be
worth putting into execution. There was
too much of the forlorn hope about them.
They had nearly all been tried before,
and there is such a thing as driving the
willing horse to death. Trees won't bear
fruit for ever.
At last I had an idea ! Forlorn but
still an idea. Ward was to go one way,
I was to go another way, and we were
to meet in an hour's time at the corner
where we were standing then. If either
of us had raised anything by that time
we were to go over and have a feast at
the Palace Restaurant, a place where you
could get one helping of meat, a big cup
of coffee, and all "the bread and butter you
could eat for fifteen cents. A meal like
258 A Man Adrift
this, where you could sit down and take
it comfortably, was much more satisfying
than a raid on the best free lunch counter
We parted. What Ward was going to
do in the allotted time, I forget. My
plan, however, was to go and try and find
Napoleoni Galliani a fine, big Italian
and borrow a dollar from him. I used
to stand next to him when I sang first
bass in the Tivoli chorus. But that was
before I got the sack.
In about an hour's time I was back at
the corner, waiting for Ward to come up.
Soon, I saw him approaching. As he got
near I could see by his face that he had
failed. He had been unsuccessful.
I walked quickly up to him, and smiled
in a large and joyous sort of way. " Come
on ! " I exclaimed, cheerily, as I took his
arm. " It's all right. Let's go over to the
Palace and eat ! "
Ward's face brightened up wonderfully.
He was another man. His step became
springy and elastic as he walked across
A New Phase 259
Soon we were in the Palace, seated and
enjoying a good meal. We had helpings
of meat and fish and everything in sight.
Ward was a most valiant and capable
trencherman, but on this occasion he
simply surpassed himself. He was a tall,
lanky man, with a great natural aptitude
for the putting away of food.
At last the feast was over, and I topped
it off by ordering two good cigars. We
would light them at the desk as we were
going out. As we stood up to go the
waiter handed me the bill. I took the
bill, which was a heavy one for the place,
and examined it leisurely to see if all the
items were correct.
And then we walked easily up to the
desk where the -bills had to be presented
and paid. Here I nodded to Ward and
said, " Go on. I'll settle the bill."
Ward walked out into the street, and
then I lit my cigar at the little gas-jet
which burned at the desk. I did it very
deliberately. Then I turned slowly to
the cashier, and handed him the bill.
He was a German, with fair hair and
260 A Man Adrift
soft blue eyes. I remember his eyes well,
because I looked so steadily and squarely
" Put that on the shelf right behind
you till I come in to-morrow," I said in
an even voice, pointing to the bill. I
kept upon him a firm and fixed stare.
The German looked at the bill, paused,
but said nothing. Then an angry look
came into his face. He realised that I
had come into the restaurant, and had
run up a big bill without having the
money to pay for it. This was a danger-
ous thing to do in 'Frisco. A man ran a
chance of being half-killed by the waiters
I thought he was going to shout for help,
but always I kept my eye on his eye, and
the angry look gradually left his face. He
never uttered a word. The whole thing
didn't take over a few seconds. It was all
over before the next customer had come
up to the desk.
" Put that on the shelf behind you," I
repeated, slowly. " There, on the shelf."
He turned, and did as I bid him. His
A New Phase 261
eye met mine again. Then I took another
light for my cigar, and walked out very
calmly and easily.
I saw Ward. He had been looking
through the window, taking the whole
thing in. A look of horror was in his
face. If he had known the true state of
affairs he would never have been able to
eat a mouthful. " You had no money I "
" No," I said.
XIX. EARNING THIRTY
ANOTHER time I was going down Market
Street wondering what would turn up
next, when suddenly I caught sight of
Count Straps ambling towards me from
across the road. He knew me when I
was singing at the Tivoli. The Count
was a rather mild-looking young man,
who wore long hair and a cowboy hat.
Why he was called Count Straps was one
of the mysteries of California. Report
had it that he had run through three
hundred thousand dollars in two years.
"Hello! ""he exclaimed, as he shook
hands with me. " Glad to see you. How
are you getting on? Come and have a
Not wishing to hurt his feelings, I con-
Earning Thirty Dollars 263
sented, and we turned into the nearest
saloon. Here a magnificent free lunch
struck my gaze. I was glad that I had
been considerate enough to accept the
Count's offer as I walked over and an-
nexed three sandwiches.
" Two lagers ! " called out the Count,
in a bold tone to the bartender. I turned
and looked at him. The impressiveness
of his tone almost made me think he had
no money to pay for the order. I had
seen the game worked before.
But happily I was deceived. The Count
had not yet got down to bed rock.
" I want you to come aboard my yacht,"
he said, as I finished my lager, quickly.
" I am taking some friends for a month's
cruise down the coast to Santa Barbara
and back again. You've been a sailor ? "
He paused a little to see what effect his
words had upon me. " And you can look
out for things generally," he concluded, as
he turned and signalled to the bartender
to let us have another drink.
I reflected rapidly as I walked over to
the lunch counter and annexed more
264 A Man Adrift
sandwiches. A month's cruise would do
me no harm! "Done!" I exclaimed,
" Done ! But is there anything in it,
Count? I'm broke, and I need a suit of
" You do," he assented, looking me up
and down. " But no worse than I do my-
self." It was a fact. "But," he added,
sagely, "when a man has no money he
should dress well. I suppose I shall soon
have to turn into a dude myself."
" Oh ! " I put in, " if things are tight,
Count, we'll call the money end of it off.
I'll go with you anyhow. I think a
month away from 'Frisco would do both
myself and the town good."
" No, we won't call it off," he said.
"You can have thirty dollars at the end
of the trip. You don't need the money
now. If you had it you'd only spend it.
Thirty dollars at the end of the trip.
Will that do?"
It would do.
So it was settled that I should turn up
at the wharf on the next day. And the
Count lending me a dollar, we parted.
Earning Thirty Dollars 265
I was sorry I was not able to share the
dollar with Ward, but he had left 'Frisco
to go to work on a ranch.
The getting together of my belongings
was a job that would not take up very
much of my time. All that I had was a
couple of shirts and some socks. This
did not bother me much, for it is not cold
off the coast of California. If it came on
to rain I would borrow oilskins from the
Count or one of his friends. Thus I was
easy in my mind as far as an outfit was
concerned. The only thing necessary for
me to do was to create a bit of an imposing
effect as I appeared on the wharf. With
this end in view, I got my landlady to lend
me an old worn portmanteau which had
lain for a long time in her lumber-room.
This I polished up.
I was hailed with a shout from the
Count when I appeared the next morn-
ing. At once he introduced me to his
friends, who were standing with him on
the wharf. I glanced down sideways at
the portmanteau which was swinging
in my hard, to see if it looked all right.
2 66 A Man Adrift
It had a polished, full-looking appearance.
I had helped out the shirts and socks
with some books and old papers.
I ran my eye over his yacht. It was a
beautiful little sloop-rigged boat of about
fifteen tons. She looked well and fit,
and steered with a tiller. She'll do, I
thought to myself, but I wonder how he
has grubbed her. The truth was, this
accessory to the trip rather interested
me, for things of late had not been going
satisfactorily with me in the eating line.
I had been subsisting mainly on hopes
and free lunches.
In this particular I found that the
Count had excelled himself in fact, too
much excelled himself, for he had got
enough wines and spirits aboard to stock
a canteen. It was all very well to be
jovial, I told him, but too much joviality
would get us on the rocks. Cruising along
a coast always wants careful watching.
And, being in effect the captain of the
yacht, I prevailed upon him to stow
away nearly all the drinkables in the
Earning Thirty Dollars 267
Soon I found that I was not only cap-
tain, but I was the crew as well ; for the
Count's friends knew nothing about the
ways of a boat, while he himself only
knew enough to take risks. How we got
safely out of harbour and through the
Golden Gates will always remain a puzzle
We were nearly run down four or five
times. On one occasion we were within
an ace of it. The Count had taken it
upon himself to steer while I tended jib.
He tried to cut across the bows of a big
steamer which was coming head on to us.
He would have made it all right, though
it was risky, but he let the yacht get up
into the wind, and she jibed before we
knew where we were. The main boom,
as it swept round, nearly knocked two of
his friends overboard.
The steamer managed to stop as we
were right under her bows with our main-
sail shaking and flopping. The mate
leaned over the rail, and cursed and
damned the Count with fluency and
vigour. I came in for my share, too.
268 A Man 'Adrift
But the Count got the lion's share of
the benediction because he was at the
After this I took the tiller myself. The
Count's dignity was injured a little by the
variety and vigour of the insults and
epithets the mate had hurled at him. He
didn't seem to realise that we were precious
lucky to get off with only a left-handed
benediction. If the steamer had struck
us, he would certainly have lost his yacht,
and some of us perhaps our lives. When
I put this to him with emphasis, he became
himself again, did the Count !
At last we were through the Golden
Gates, and out into the free water. Then
I began to think a little about the situation.
Before that I had had no time to think
about anything but trying to save the
yacht, and ourselves. I had passed through
a succession of bad quarter-hours.
I was in a situation at once ludicrous
and dangerous. Here was I with five
fellows in a boat, four of whom knew
nothing about sailoring, and the fifth less
than nothing. And, as far as I was con-
Earning Thirty Dollars 269
cerned, I myself didn't know too much
about the handling of a boat with a fore
and aft rig. Besides, I had hardly any
knowledge of the coast.
I would have to do absolutely all the
work! None of them could be trusted to
take a watch, for none of them could steer.
And the adventures the yacht had gone
through in getting out of harbour proved
the Count to be a reed of the most broken
kind. He was a nice fellow, but a reed !
He had entered upon this pleasure-trip
depending on me to pull it through safely.
It would be no pleasure-trip for me. I
would have hard work and anxiety all the
time. There was humour, to be sure, in
the situation ; but the humour was dis-
counted by the danger.
I began to wish I had stayed in San
We ran along till it began to get dark
I at the tiller all the time. The Count's
four friends were in the cabin. They were
sick, I am thankful to say. As for the
Count himself, he was on deck, very much
to the fore, and telling me all sorts of
270 A Man Adrift
things about nothing in particular. At
last I said, " That's all right." I hadn't
been listening to what he had been saying.
"Tell me," I asked, suddenly, as I gave
the tiller a shove, " do you know of a
place where we could run in for the night ?
If I'm to be the captain and crew all rolled
up into one, I might as well have a little
To my utter amazement, the Count did
know of a little bay where we could run
in and shelter. I had asked him the
question more to shut him up than any-
thing else, for I was irritated right
through. His being of any use at a pinch
gave me a decided shock. "Where?" I
asked, incredulously. "Off over behind
that point," he replied, indicating the
direction. " It's a little bay with a sandy,
shelving bottom. I've been there before,
when Cregan was running the yacht for
me. We ought to make it in half an
hour with this breeze."
I said nothing, but headed for the
direction he gave me. His remembering
it seemed too good to be true. I deter-
Earning Thirty Dollars 271
mined if it turned out all right to have a
better opinion of him in future.
It did turn out all right, for sure enough
I ran the yacht into as fine a little anchor-
age as one could wish for. What the
name of the place was, the Count was
unable to tell me. But that mattered
little. The fact of his piloting me to it at
all helped me to forget his curious method
of steering us through the harbour in the
The Count let down the jib and dropped
the anchor as I ran her up close to the
shore. Then we took in the mainsail.
Soon after this, the others got over their
sea sickness, and we all had a jolly supper
together in the cabin. The drinkables
were brought into requisition. As captain,
the Count deferred to me as to whether
or not drink should be allowed. But I
thought that I might as well relax dis-
cipline, on the grounds that we were at
anchor, and that there was no one to
discipline but myself. Also, that as pilot,
the Count was really in charge of the ship.
We made a night of it
A Man Adrift
The next day things went on more
smoothly, but I had to do all the steering
just the same. The Count tended the jib,
and told me various stories. He had been
a good deal around, and had had the
excitement of getting through a fortune
in a hurry. His friends stayed drinking
below in the cabin most of the time.
When night came we dropped anchor
again in another little bay. The Count
was at least a good pilot.
And we made another night of it.
In time we worked our way down to
Drake's Bay. Here we stayed two or
three days. It was a most beautiful bay
this bay where the English rover had
cast his anchor in the long ago. We got
into it in the morning. The sky was
gloriously blue, and the sun was shining as
it shines only in California with a soft,
golden brilliance. I .was glad that my
wanderings had led me to such a country.
After all there was something to be said
in favour of knocking about the world.
The old proverb had it that a rolling
stone gathered no moss. But surely,
Earning Thirty Dollars 273
at least, in the rolling the stone became
We enjoyed ourselves while we were
here loafing and lazing around on shore
in the sun in the daytime, and sleeping
aboard the yacht at night. The Count
and his friends were most jovial and com-
panionable. We got all the drinkables
out of the hold, and stowed them in the
cabin. The Count joked me, saying what
would they do if the crew mutinied. I
replied that if the crew mutinied, the
captain would come to the front most
A few hours before our time for sailing
out of the bay the Count made a proposal.
There were some cattle scattered over the
hills, and as we were short of fresh meat
he said it would be a good idea to scout
around and shoot a calf. I agreed with
him that it was an excellent idea
provided no one caught us carrying it
out. Living in civilisation began to
chasten me. There was a flavour of
piracy about the suggestion reminiscent
of the old buccaneers who had made this
274 A Man Adrift
part of the Californian coast one of their
stamping grounds. But after a little per-
suasion I began to see the romance of the
idea. When you are amid the ruins of
Rome you are naturally apt to feel some-
what Roman ! We started out on the
But no calves were to be found. There
were nothing but big cows and bulls or
bullocks. The calves must have known
of our evil intent, and made themselves
scarce. There was no use in killing any-
thing that would be too heavy to get
aboard. Besides, the mind of the Count
ran on veal. We had to give up the idea.
At last we were riding safe at anchor
before Santa Barbara. We had got
through the first part of the trip. We
stayed here some time, as I thought the
captain and crew needed a rest. Having
to steer continuously through whole days
in succession was rather wearying.
It would be too long a story to tell
about the second half of the trip. Enough
to say that I more than earned the money
I was to get from Count Straps. As
Earning Thirty Dollars 275
before, I had to do all the steering. And
only that we were usually able to put in
somewhere at night I could never have
pulled through. As it was, we almost
went ashore on the Seal Rocks just out-
side the harbour of San Francisco. I had
made the mistake of trying to get in in the
night-time. The Count was in the cabin
drinking with his friends. They wanted
me to drink, too, but I felt that I needed
all my wits about me to keep a lookout
and to manage the tiller. I had to leave
it, and run forward to tend the jib when-
ever I put the boat about. I got the
Count up to pilot me, but he saw too
many lights at once.
When I heard the roar of the breakers
I thought we were done for. Drunken
shouting and singing from the cabin below
mingled with the ugly, deadly roar of the
surf. I was just beginning to see the
black heads of the rocks in the moonlight.
But I managed to sheer away, and,
after an anxious time, I had her through
the Golden Gates.
When I got to the wharf, by good luck
276 A Man Adrift
a loafer was hanging around. He grabbed
the line I threw him, and hitched it round
a spile. And I fervently thanked the
Lord, as I hauled in the yacht and made
her fast. The trip was over !
The next day I walked up Market
Street with my thirty dollars safe in my
pocket. The Count had been as good as
his word. And I went into the first
tailor's shop I came to to buy myself a
hand-me-down suit of clothes.
XX. LOUNGING THROUGH
I HAD twenty dollars left after buying the
suit of clothes, and I thought I might as
well take a little relaxation after captain-
ing the Count's yacht. I would like to
have a look around California to lounge
For the sunshine of California is past
the sunshine of any other part of the
planet. I am sure that every globe-trotter
and lounger will agree with me in saying
that a difference in latitude makes a
corresponding difference in the quality
of the sun's rays. I mean quality as
distinct from intensity. Sol has varied
moods. In Calcutta he is piercingly ag-
gressive ; in London he makes you sad
because of the doleful way in which he
veils his face in fog ; in Greenland he is
278 A Man Adrift
pale and ethereal, and seems as if he were
not for this world.
But in California he makes up for his
delinquencies. He is in his best mood.
He behaves himself. His rays are at
once as brilliant as they are in Calcutta,
and as mild and genial in their effect as
they are in England. He shines with un-
Climate is the most vital topic in
California. It is the first, second, and
third thing that is talked about. People
who have hardly been in the country a
month become confirmed climate -ex-
pounders. It is impossible to escape from
their lucid and exhaustive way of putting
it. If you wish to become unpopular and
despised, all you have to do is to barely
hint that the climate is not quite absolute
However, there is one thing that the
Californian or, rather, the San Franciscan
refrains from praising to the skies, and
that is part of the climate, too. This
thing is sand. If you are foolish enough
to walk along Market Street in the after
Lounging through Sunshine 279
noon when the kona or trade wind is
blowing from the Pacific Ocean, you will
speedily become acquainted with this sand.
The kona gathers it up from the neigh-
bouring hills. It is an affectionate and
pleased-to-meet-you kind of sand, and gets
into your eyes, mouth, nostrils, ears,
pockets, under your vest, and everywhere
it can. After it has dallied with you for a
quarter of an hour, you begin to feel sorry
for ever having come to 'Frisco, and to
wonder feebly at the Californian's climate-
praising faculty. When next you hear him
losing himself in a panegyric concerning
the gilded climate, you will, if you are
unwise, hazard a sarcastic remark about the
benefits of this sand. For answer the
panegyrist will look at you in reproachful
The Chinese have a great hold in San
Francisco. You have but to turn up
Clay Street from Kearney Street, walk
a block or two, and, lo ! you are in a
Chinese city. You are in the midst of
the filth, squalor, and morbidness of the
Mongol. Aye, the Chinese have come
280 A Man Adrift
here to stay. Here are their joss-houses,
their theatres, their uncanny-looking
shops, and themselves, smoking opium
mixed with tobacco from queer-looking
pipes. Even the very streets are as
narrow and uneven as they are in the
lower quarters of a town in far-away
China. Little Chinese children, who
look like quaint, animated wax dolls, move
around gravely. Their playing with one
another, if such their solemn movements
can be called, has all the gravity of some
If you want to see California at its
best, however, you must not stop in San
Francisco. As I said before, the sand
is too familiar and affectionate for one's
comfort. No, you must go south. Here
you will find California living up to its
reputation. You will find the climate as
glorious and as beautiful as they say it
is which is saying a great deal. Take
Santa Barbara, for example. It lies
under the shadow of a great mountain.
Stretching out before it is the laze and
heave of the great Pacific Ocean. The
Lounging through Sunshine 281
scenery around this part of California
is the most wonderful and beautiful in
the world. It realises the ideal of the
greatest descriptive writers. Byron him-
self has not imagined a land-picture more
magnificent. There is a Jesuit mission-
house here, two hundred years old, a relic
of the Spaniards. As you approach from
the seaward great, high, snow-topped
mountains rise and rise before you. You
sail on and on till at last a little town
seems to come up out of the waters. A
town framed in the soft clear fire of a
sun of gold. It is Santa Barbara.
Forty miles inland you come upon Los
Angeles. Before it is a desert of sand.
It is a strange-looking town a town that
is at once old and young. In a way, it
is a hard-looking town, possessing not
a tithe of the beauty of Santa Barbara.
I can't for the life of me see why the
Spaniards named it after the angels.
They must have been possessed of great
vigour of imagination, for through the best
part of the year its heat is not calculated
to make one think of Heaven. I believe
282 A Man Adrift
there is a fiction abroad to the effect
that Los Angeles has everything to be
desired in the way of climate. I am
sorry to have to be heretic enough to
deny this. The name of the town, I
suppose, sounds well to the far outsider.
He doesn't know, of course, that one of
the interesting things about the climate
of California is the fact that it changes
tremendously within the radius of a
few miles. There is a big difference
between the coast and fifty miles
Yes, I wonder why the Spaniards
named this town after the angels. It
could hardly be that the heat of it made
them think of the fallen angels when they
were christening it, for the Spaniards
were conquerors of the devoutest calibre.
They slew and prayed and prayed and
slew, and often, I presume, they indulged
in both these pastimes at one and the
same time. Again, it might have been
that a sense of the humorous was upon
them when they were performing the
town's baptismal rite. But this is hardly
Lounging through Sunshine 283
probable, for they were civilisers, and,
as everyone knows, civilisers are an
earnest, stern, unhumorous lot. A joke
must have a steel point to it before they
can appreciate it. No, it could neither
have been humour nor irreverence that
prompted the Spaniards as to the nam-
ing of this place. The reason is a
deep, artesian mystery, and life is too
abrupt to try and probe to the bottom
This town is the home of the tamale.
For the benefit of those who have never
known the joy of eating a tamale on the
street at midnight, I must try and describe
what it is made of, what it is like, and
its effect generally. In the first place,
it is very warm to the hands, and looks
like an overgrown bunged-up banana. It
is made up of chicken, corn meal, strong
spices, and other things known and un-
known. These are all boiled and mashed
up together, and laid out on big corn
leaves, which are rolled into the shape of
the aforesaid banana, and tied up at both
ends. Then a man stands on the corner
284 A Man Adrift
late at night to sell them to the rounders.
He keeps them steaming in a big tin
boiler, just as they do Indian corn in
New York. You give him a dime, and
he hands you out a tamale on a fork.
You grab the tamale off the fork ; you
strip off its leaves, and commence to en-
joy yourself, thinking the while that there
is some good after all in the skill and in-
telligence of man. The effect of the tamale
on one is great. It warms you up from
top to toe like good old wine, feeds you,
and makes you feel that things are going
well generally. You become optimistic,
forget your radical, destructive ideas, and
begin to think kindly even of old time,
moss-covered institutions. I have seen
and eaten tamales in New York, but
they are no more to be compared with
the Los Angeles - - or angel tamales
than well, words fail to tell the differ-
In this town you get good wine at a low
price. Of course, the wine hasn't got the
ancient and hoary pedigree of a wine of
Southern France, but then I need hardly
Lounging through Sunshine 285
point out that bad, faked-up wine with
an alleged ancient pedigree of the hoary
order, and that also possesses the
additional merit of being tremendously
expensive, is hardly the most desir-
able thing in the world to stack up
After awhile here one gets into the
knack of using up a great deal of time
in the doing of nothing. The very air
seems to whisper softly : " Never do to-
day what you can put off till to-morrow." I
can well understand how the older inhabit-
ants have attained to such a degree of skill
in the subtle art of killing time. " Hurry
up," is a phrase which has lost its meaning
for them. They are the masters of time
instead of being its slaves. This is all
wrong, from a New York or London
standpoint. But then it is comfortable
and comfort isn't such a bad thing after
It is easy to know people who have
just got in from the Eastern States by
the way they bustle round trying to do
four things at once. But in time they
286 A Man Adrift
become wise, and calm down. The
climate soothes them.
The people plant orange trees in their
gardens, and the effect of the bright
green leaves and full golden fruit is most
The country round about is most
favourable to the cultivation of oranges.
You may drive along by orange groves
for miles and miles. There are no fences
to guard them. Think of it! All you
have to do is to stop your horse, get out,
and help yourself. The proprietors don't
mind the fruit is so plentiful. During
the picking season the tramps come down
from San Francisco to help to gather in
the crop. Their pay is a dollar a day
and their board. For once they for-
swear their allegiance to the god of
Rest, and indulge in a little toil. But
the toil is light, and they go about it
Tough-looking specimens of the genus
homo are these tramps. But they are all
healthy and vigorous of look, and their
faces are thoughtful of expression. Like
Lounging through Sunshine 287
the Hindu philosophers, they are much
given to introspection. They have the
leisure to discover themselves to them-
selves. The climate is also favourable
to their intellectual development. They
come here from the East, where in the
winter things in general are cold and
unfreshing, and immediately they fall
in love with the country. They are
enthralled. They bless God for having
made such a beautiful, easy-to-loaf-in land,
and they become sincere and ardent
patriots who are willing to stay with that
land till death.
I would like to say a word as to the
tramp in America.
He is a man who has come to the con-
clusion that hard, sustained labouring
work is bad for his general health. A
little of it now and then is all right ; but
to keep at it for a month or a year is not
to be thought of.
Reasoning thus, he becomes a tramp.
He goes from place to place, from spot
to spot. Gradually he develops his gift
for thinking. He becomes a full-
288 A Man Adrift
fledged philosopher upon the subject of
Don't run away with the idea that our
tramp walks very much. Don't imagine
that hour after hour he is climbing up
hill and down dale. No, he is too clever
for that. And besides, America is a big,
wide country. It abounds in immense
prairies and chains of lofty mountains.
Walking it would smack of the nature of
No, our tramp rides. He presses the
railway companies into his service. He
takes advantage of the resources of
civilisation. At bottom he is really the
most civilised of persons. Don't forget
this. He is a voluptuary without
Also he has a certain sense of honesty.
He is too honest to rob any poor man
out of a day's work. He would rather
He is not particular as to his accom-
modation when he is taking a ride on a
train. He doesn't want something for
nothing, and that something of the very
Lounging through Sunshine 289
best, as people usually do. He is that
rara avis an uncritical deadhead. He
doesn't cry out for a stall. No ; a gallery
seat will do.
He will take his ride on the cow-catcher
of the engine, or on the front of the blind-
baggage, or, if needs must, in under the
engine on the trucks. Or he will ride in
a box-car or on the bumpers. He is not
particular. And when the brakesman tells
him to get off he does when the train
stops. But he gets on again when the
In common with all men who have
nothing whatever to do with the govern-
ing of the State, he takes an intense
interest in politics. He picks up old,
thrown-away papers, reads them, and dis-
cusses what they say and what they don't
say with his fellow tramps. He is
interested in the workings of the tariff,
in the Chinese question, in the negro
question. He would like to see America
prosperous and respected by foreign
countries. He thinks the Government
ought to build more ships and increase
2 go A Man Adrift
the strength of the Army. He is not,
however, very strong on the rights of the
working man. The working man is
always striking or growling about the
rights of labour. This doesn't appeal to
the tramp, for deep continuous thought
has shown him that in the nature of things
labour can have no rights. Either a man
must work and shut up about it, or he
must avoid working altogether.
The people who win the tramp's admira-
tion are the Senators and Congressmen,
who talk a lot about nothing, live well,
and, at the same time, do nothing. He
also thinks approvingly of the Commis-
sioners who go abroad to settle things.
He feels there is a strong tie between
these people and himself. They do the
same thing he does, only very much
better. They excel in the fine art of
sitting down to settle things. And, what
is more to the point, they make it
Occasionally the tramp becomes weak
enough to do some work. But this weak-
ness doesn't last long. He soon resumes
Lounging through Sunshine 291
his wonted vigour. The work, however,
is usually of a light and pleasant nature.
Peach-picking is what he favours most.
This work is easy and healthy and shady,
and the peaches are delicious of aroma
and taste. The season lasts six weeks.
He gets something a day and his board,
with the privilege of sleeping in the barn
in the hay.
The tramp's real means of livelihood
is begging. He can tell at a glance a
house where he will get a "hand-out."
A " hand-out" is a parcel of food, which
derives its name from being handed out
through a half-opened door.
Yes, the tramp develops into a skilful
and expert beggar. Some people may
think that there is no art in begging, but
if they do they are much mistaken. It
takes a clever man to know what stranger
to ask for money. As he goes along the
street he must be able to single out at a
glance the giving type of man ; for, as the
tramp will inform you, there are really in
existence men who like to give money to
anyone who asks for it. They are rare,
292 A Man Adrift
but they do exist. The thing is to be
able to single out this man, and then to
know if he has money in his pocket, and
if he be in the right mood. To do this
But let us go back to the land of sun-
San Diego lies to the south of Los
Angeles, and is quite close to the frontier
line between Mexico and the United
States some six or eight miles from it.
Here the climate is perfection. The
temperature is pretty nearly the same all
the year round between seventy-five and
eighty degrees Fahrenheit. It is a fine
place for invalids, who travel to it from
all parts of the world. Its air is at once
bracing and soft. Behind it, in the
distance, stand great mountains. Before
it stretches the ocean. On Coronado
Beach a little way from the town
stands the Coronado Hotel. It is an
immense hotel, and well appointed. Only
the wealthiest of travellers may put up
there. I only gazed at it.
The older part of this town which was
Lounging through Sunshine 293
built by the Mexicans, is very picturesque.
The houses are of adobe, and often are
quaintly beautiful. Here live the Mexi-
can part of the population. They have
coppery-coloured, swarthy faces, and black
eyes. They have a mixture of Spanish
and Indian blood in their veins. The
women often are beautiful, but they age
early. They are old at twenty - five.
When a Mexican woman is beautiful, she
is beautiful indeed magnetic, flashing of
eye, and finely formed.
I remember the morning I first lounged
into Santa Cruz. This is another little
gem of a town on the southern coast. It
is so cool and green and beautiful. From
here I went to see the Big Trees. They
were six miles away. The way to them
was over a stage road built along
the side of a great gorge which cuts
through the mountains. The scenery
here is wild and grand. And gloriously
The magnificence of the trees is hardly
to be described. They are stupendous
immense of girth, and running up straight
294 A. Man Adrift
for hundreds of feet. One of them has a
great hole cut through the base of its
trunk through which the' stage - coach
passes. This will give some idea of their
vastness. They are all nearly of the same
size. The effect is awesome. You feel so
puny standing by the side of a tremendous
silent Titan that has lived through the
There is a little town not very far from
here called San Bueneventura. It also is
built right on the edge of the ocean. At
this point the waves thunder in with great
force, because of a reef that lies some
distance out. You can hear the roar of
these waves miles away. In the town,
where all is calm and clear and bright,
this roaring, as of a constant, wild storm,
has an odd effect. There is nothing like
it along the whole coast of California.
The Mexicans have a superstition con-
cerning it. They say that God has caused
the waves to thunder there in wrath
because of the desecration of their land
by the Gringos, or Americanos.
Two hundred years ago the Jesuits built
Lounging through Sunshine 295
in this town a church, which is there still.
It is long and low, and dark-looking, and
is surmounted by a great wooden cross.
In it the Jesuits converted and baptized
the Indians after the Spaniards had
crushed them into subjection. When the
soldiers had subjected the body, the priests
thought it well to subject the soul. The
roof of the church is low and heavily
rafted. The rude wooden benches where-
on the Indians sat are still there. Before
the small, simple altar a light burns. It
is the sanctuary light. It has been burn-
ing there all through these two hundred
years. Not once has it been out. It
is a flame small and blue and steady.
Typical of the indomitableness, and slow,
never-dying persistence of the Jesuit.
Before the altar the Virgin stands. In
her arms she holds the Babe.
San Luis Obispo is about twenty miles
inland from San Bueneventura. I think
this is the most Mexican in appearance
of all the towns in Southern California.
Some of the larger houses have curious
inner courtyards, roofed over with glass.
296 A Man Adrift
In them the Mexicans used to sit and
chat and smoke cigarettos. The idea of
building these glass-roofed courtyards was
borrowed in the long ago from the Aztecs,
themselves a mighty and powerful race
whom Cortes conquered. The ease with
which the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs
was due to the fact that they believed the
white men to be the sons of their god,
Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl was really a
man who dwelt with the Aztecs, probably
as far back as the birth of Christ. He
taught them useful arts, and when he left
them he promised to come back again
with a numerous progeny. The remem-
brance of this promise was kept alive by
tradition, just as the Jews keep alive
their belief in the coming of a Messiah.
Quetzalcoatl was a white man probably
from Europe. So goes the old legend.
When the Spaniards came the Aztecs
thought that their god had kept his
promise, and they welcomed them. It
was only when the white men had com-
mitted unheard-of atrocities and treacheries
that the Aztecs thought of trying to repel
Lounging through Sunshine 297
them. But even then the Aztecs were
demoralised. They thought they were
fighting against the sons of their
XXL OPERATIC FORAGERS
THERE was a certain comic opera com-
pany that used to go on tour through
California and Oregon, and round the
Pacific Slope generally. The manager
of this company was one of the nicest
men I have ever met. True, he was a
little shy about the paying of salaries,
but for all that his heart was in the right
place. A manager can't pay out what
doesn't come in. And I must say that
when he was telling one on salary day
of the wonderful things that would happen
the week after in the way of finance
he did it in a most pleasing and artistic
Everyone liked him. And I have
heard people say that they would almost
as soon work for him without salary as
Operatic Foragers 299
for some managers with salary. I can't
say that my devotion to him was as pro-
nounced as this, but still it was pronounced.
It was when his company had got into
a hole that he showed forth in his best
form. Say if he were unable to pay their
hotel bills, or unable to raise the fare to
go to the next stand. Then his genius
would bud and blossom forth. He would
win over the hotel-keeper to let the trunks
go, or he would deftly borrow five hundred
or a thousand dollars from an almost com-
He was a man with the true impres-
After I had got back to 'Frisco from
having an easy lounge through California,
I was engaged by this genial manager to
sing first bass in his chorus and to play
small parts when called upon. The
salary was fifteen dollars a week. I
had heard, of course, that the ghost
was decrepit, and not often able to
walk, but this weighed little with me
when once I came under the spell of
the manager's magnetism. He described
300 A Man Adrift
the beauties of the country through which
his company was to tour in a fine guide-
book manner, and he let me have five
dollars in advance.
We opened in 'Los Angeles. Here we
played for a month in the Pavilion. I
believe the first opera that was put on
was " Der Fledermaus." After that fol-
lowed " Boccacio " and " The Beggar
Student " and several other comic operas.
We finished with "The Pirates of Pen-
In Los Angeles the ghost walked we
were paid our wages. And when the
month was over the landlord of the hotel
where the bulk of us were staying gave
a champagne supper to the whole of the
company. I will never forget that supper.
I was sitting next to the prima donna,
and I was astounded to hear her tell the
waiter that she wanted beer instead of
champagne. I thought that she must be
a very democratic prima donna indeed,
but I afterwards found out that the worst
beer is better than the best Californian
Operatic Foragers 301
After we left Los Angeles we left home,
for in no other town did we even make
our expenses. The manager was put
to the necessity of showing forth in his
best form the whole time. He was doing
nothing but borrowing money and sooth-
ing the wrath of hotel-keepers. How he
kept it up was a mystery.
At last, however, it struck him that
the company needed a rest, and he
managed to get us to Santa Barbara,
where he closed the season. His plan,
he explained, was to have the men of the
company camp out in the mountains till
he could raise enough money to open up
the season again.
So we went out and camped in the
Santa Ynez Mountains.
One morning, in the mountains, after
a scant breakfast, we sat around, dis-
cussing and wondering what we would
have to do next. Our position was
serious. We had run out of food. True,
we had rifles and ammunition, and there
was plenty of game around us, but we
had only one decent shot in the crowd,
3oa A Man Adrift
and he had had bad luck. The rest
could hardly have hit a barn a
hundred yards off. We were a sad lot
The ladies of the company were stay-
ing at a cheap hotel in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara lay forty miles to the west,
right on the coast. The way to it lay
across a trail over parts of which a mule
could not travel. Thus we had come
away with comparatively little food.
Alas, we had depended on our skill
We were bad fishermen also. The
trout in the neighbouring stream would
simply have nothing to say to us. So
here we were in the midst of plenty with
no hands to grasp it.
As we were arguing, a luminous idea
suddenly broke in upon me. "Why not
kill a pig ? " I suggested. The suggestion
was received with horror, for the pig I
referred to was one of a drove of pigs
that belonged to a rancher who allowed
them to run in the mountains. No ! Such
a thing could not be thought of! It would
Operatic Foragers 303
be nothing short of robbery ! Daylight
But I pointed out that we might per-
petrate the deed at night or at dusk,
thereby running less risk of having any
of the rancher's men see us. If we were
caught doing it, of course it would be
rather bad. We might get shot, or at
least arrested and taken to prison to
Santa Barbara. To be shot would be our
most likely fate, though ; for the men
around a ranch in California were apt to
be both good marksmen and believers
in quick justice. The thing for us to do
was to commit the deed expeditiously at
dusk. I laid emphasis upon this point.
After a little while I could see by their
faces that my suggestion had germinated,
and, in fact, was budding forth vigorously
in their minds. The seed had fallen on
good ground. They were short of food,
and they were bad hunters ; and one
could go right up and interview a pig
without the introduction of a couple of
hours' stalking. The only difficulty was
the barrier raised up in their minds by
304 A Man Adrift
the sensitiveness of their ethics. But this
was soon surmounted by their need.
Hunger and ethics soon part company.
When dusk came Charlie Johnson and
I sallied forth. All day long we had
been thinking of roast pig, and now was
coming the beginning of the end. Our
plan was to get as close to a pig as
possible, shoot it, prepare it quickly, and
bury the offal so as to leave no trace. I
had a spade, and Charlie had a rifle. If
a ranchman heard the shot, we based our
chances of safety upon the probability of
his thinking that we were hunting.
The principal tenor of the company,
who, needless to say, was stout, had given
us a caution as to the size of the pig we
were to select. A smallish one, he said,
not more than a hundred and fifty pounds
in weight. I didn't exactly see at the
time his reason for being so particular,
but afterwards it dawned upon me.
Soon Charlie and I sighted what we
took to be a suitable pig, quite after
the stout tenor's fancy. It was standing
near five or six others, and Charlie knelt
Operatic Foragers 305
down when near enough, took aim, and
blazed away. It dropped with a bullet
behind its ear. I rushed forward, and
grabbed it by one of its forelegs as it
lay struggling furiously. It was horribly
strong, and it knocked me about a good
deal, but Charlie soon finished it with
his knife. It was then we saw that we
had killed a bigger pig than we intended.
The dusk had fallen upon us too rapidly.
After we had prepared it and buried
the evidences of our deed, we tied its
legs together, and cut down the limb
of a small tree. This we passed through
the legs. Then we lifted up the carcase
and carried it. Charlie went first, with
one end of the tree limb on his right
shoulder, while I had the other end of it
on my left shoulder. But the pig was
so heavy that we could go no more than
a few yards before we had to put it down.
Plainly, we had made a bad mistake as
to the size.
By this time night was upon us, and
we were getting nervous. There was a
chance any minute of our being fired
306 A Man Adrift
upon ' or challenged by someone. And
our camp was nearly a mile away. The
moon was also coming up clear and strong.
Hardly the best thing for us ! We would
never be able to get to camp with our
load. What were we to do?
Suddenly I said to Charlie :
"Look here, old man! We are two
numbskulls! Here are we taking all the
risk in this business while the other fellows
are luxuriously waiting in camp to begin
the feast when we arrive. They take no
risk, but they will eat as much of it as we
shall. Perhaps more."
Charlie mopped his forehead. "You're
right," he said. " What should we do ? "
" Do? Why, let us leave the pig here,
go back to camp, and make all hands help
to carry it in turn. If they eat, they must
share the risk."
So back to camp we went. We stated
the case to them as they stood around the
fire. There were a great many blank
looks. Nobody seemed to like the idea.
The feast was all right, but the getting
of it bothered them. The stout tenor was
Operatic Foragers 307
especially indignant. His idea had been
for us to kill a small pig, so that we might
carry it to camp ourselves. If we were
shot, it wouldn't have been his funeral.
He had foreseen what would happen if we
killed a big one.
At last the logic of hunger proved to
them that the right thing to do was to
come and take their chance. So we all
left camp in a body. The stout tenor
wanted to stay behind, but I said a few
forcible things to him.
In about an hour's time we were back
with the pig. No accident had occurred.
No prying ranchman had been around.
Everything had been serene. As serene
as the moon !
Soon a delicious odour was arising.
And then we had a feast!
XXII. HOW I "RAN PROPS"
WHILST I was in 'Frisco I had the honour
of suping with Sarah Bernhardt. She
played a season at the Baldwin Theatre,
and I, along with others, got the princely
allowance of fifty cents, a night for sup-
porting her in " Theodora." We played
slaves and nobles and gladiators and circus-
riders and other things Roman. I re-
member on one occasion having the felicity
of standing quite near to the divine Sarah
in the right second entrance. I was
dressed up as a slave, and was getting
ready to follow some Roman nobles who
were marching on to the stage as if they
owned it. I looked quite critically at the
great actress to see if she were as thin as
report said. She was not. I suppose she
had picked up somewhat.
How I " Ran Props ' 309
This was after I had got to 'Frisco from
touring through California with the opera
company. I had no money, for the genial
manager had told me in his most tactful
manner that he would pay me what he
owed me when things looked up a little.
Thus I had to take on suping.
Soon after this I got an engagement to
sing ballads in the Eureka Music Hall
on Kearney Street. They were rather
generous to me here in the way of ad-
vertisement, for on one side of the pro-
gramme I was announced as the " Cele-
brated Tenor," while on the other side I
was announced as the " Celebrated Bari-
tone." Here I sang for a month.
When I left I was at once engaged
by a third - rate actor to play heavy
business for him villains, and such like.
This actor wanted to star through the
country, for he had come to the conclu-
sion that he was great. This is a con-
clusion that all actors arrive at.
He was rather a character, this actor.
He had the keenest sense of self-value I
have ever met in anyone. As he deftly
310 A Man Adrift
and pointedly put it : " If I only get a
chance I'll paralyse the earth."
With sorrow I am compelled to state
that I did not suit the actor's requirements.
I looked the part of a villain, he averred,
and I read my lines like one, but well,
it was my walk he objected to. Alas, I
still had the walk of a sailor. The roll of
the ship had not yet got out of my gait.
And a stage villain had, above all, to have
a steady and commanding walk. I lost
However, I was luckier with Jim Wessels,
the melodramatic actor. Whenever Jim
spoke the scenes trembled. He was what
was known as the scene-chewing type of
actor. He went in for producing unsubtle,
He gave me a part in " The Danites,"
not because I could act, but because I had
a good loud voice. The man who had
been playing the part was most artistic
in his make-up and conception of the char-
acter, but his voice could hardly be heard
past the footlights. At a pinch I could
be heard outside the theatre, and though
How I " Ran Props' 311
I was atrociously bad as an actor I was
given the part to play.
The next thing I did was to sing chorus
in the Grand Opera House on Mission
Street. Campanini came to San Francisco
to put on a series of grand operas. He
had with him Scalchi, Repetto, Baldini,
Antonio Galassi, and other artistes, in-
cluding Gore, the conductor from La Scala.
We the chorus singers had to rehearse
for a month before the operas were actually
put on, and this was a trying time for us,
for we were nearly all hard up. We were
paid nothing for the rehearsals.
The first opera, " Rigoletto," was a fiasco
as far as the chorus was concerned. In
the opening chorus Gore did not give us
the sign to attack, and the result was that
not one of us opened our mouths to sing.
We looked like dummies neither useful
nor ornamental. When the curtain went
down on the first act Galassi turned round
to us fiercely and shouted, " What for you
no cantante ? " As his eye seemed to meet
mine, I shouted back at him, " Why didn't
Gore give us the cue?" Galassi was a
312 A Man Adrift
towering big man, and he looked as if he
were going to come for me.
It turned out afterwards that Gore for-
got himself, and thought he was conduct-
ing at La Scala. We were told that there
a conductor never gives the sign to the
chorus to attack. They are supposed to
know when to come in themselves. This
plan, of course, is all right when the chorus
has had a sufficient number of rehearsals.
All I got out of this engagement was
About this time the climate of California
lost for me its rare and subtle beauty. I
longed to go Eastward. But how? I
was thirty-six hundred miles away from
New York. And big obstacles met me at
every point, for very few companies that
left 'Frisco for New York ever wanted
people. It looked as though it were my
fate to become a permanent Californian,
when an engagement was offered me. It
was to sing in a quartette at the Alcazar
Theatre, where Ned Harrigan, a famous
exponent of character - comedy, had just
arrived from New York to put on his own
How I cc Ran Props * 313
pieces. He wanted singers, and I was
During his stay in the town, which
lasted eight weeks, he took a liking to
me, and his manager intimated to me that
I could go with the company, if I wished,
as Harrigan was going to play his way
across the Continent to New York. A
thrill of delight suffused me. But, alas !
there was a codicil, so to speak, to the
contract. It was this: I had to "run
props." At that time I had only a vague
notion of what running props meant, but
an instinct told me that it was something
with very little of a soft snap in it. My
ardour was dampened considerably, but I
had had a surfeit of the gilded climate,
and therefore decided to accept this iron-
Oh, if I had only known then what I
knew afterwards, I would have stayed in
California till the golden sun had covered
me with gilt before I would have taken
such an engagement. It was only by a
miracle that I ever got to New York. A
hundred times I was on the point of leav-
314 A Man Adrift
ing, owing to the nature of my work. It
was, indeed, an unthankful, an ungrateful,
and a tough task. I became everyone's
bitter foe. Fellows who hobnobbed with
me, and who drank my beer in 'Frisco,
now looked upon me as their natural
The company consisted of twenty -six
people, and in addition to my duties as a
property-man, I had to look after all the
baggage and scenery, for we carried no
carpenters. We would get into a town,
say, at ten o'clock in the morning. The
stage-manager who, by the way, was a
very good fellow named Charles and I
would go together and get a stiff drink to
prepare us for the day's ordeal, while the
star would immediately hie him to the
hotel to sleep. The rest of the company
would either follow his example, or stand
around on the principal street mashing the
girls. Of course, as Charles and I were
but human, we naturally envied the easy
time they had compared to ours, and, as
they invariably grumbled at us in the night
time when we were running the scenes
How I 'Ran Props' 315
and properties of the performance, we
anathematised them roundly over our fra-
ternal drinks. After we had quenched
our thirst and eased our feelings, we would
go to the theatre, or rather hall, where I
would interview the property-man, while
the indomitable Charles interviewed the
proprietor or carpenter, or whatever he
was, about the scenes we had to use that
night. After Charles had seen that sapient
individual, he would mark off the dressing-
The party whom I interviewed was
usually a man or boy who worked at some
other business, and who got off on that
particular day to help me to get the
properties. It is needless to say that his
lack of knowledge concerning things
theatrical would fill libraries. He would
try to make up for this lack by boundless
enthusiasm for the stage. I would give
him a list of the indispensable properties,
but, alas ! not more than half of them
showed up when the shades of night fell,
and I alone had to bear the brunt of the
star's fury when he found them missing.
316 A Man Adrift
After Charles and I had got through
our interviewing we would go out and get
a little more courage, and await develop-
ments. They would come in the shape
of the gentry we had just interviewed.
They expected us to treat them. I need
hardly say that the management never
allowed us treating expenses.
In time night would come, and then
would come our sorrows. The first
grumble would be about dressing-rooms,
and I don't wonder at it, for the noble
knights of the sock and buskin had had
such an easy time during the day that
dressing in those stuffy little rooms injured
their feelings. Where they made the mis-
take to my mind was in imagining that
Charles and I were magicians who could,
by some occult power, transform the little
holes into large, commodious, airy spaces,
where they could keep up in a fitting
manner the atmosphere of luxurious ease
in which they had revelled during the day.
However, I must say that we would meet
their disapproval with a vast amount of
stoicism. In fact, we would make little
How I " Ran Props' 1 317
forcible remarks to them that were calcu-
lated to heighten it.
Then the star would begin, but, to tell
the honest truth, his starship was less
of a grumbler than any of them, for he
only grumbled from an artistic standpoint.
He would stand in the entrance during a
performance and upbraid me in scathing
terms for my dilatory and stupid ways. He
would analyse and expound the value of
properties to actors and the acting art.
He would say that I killed his piece ; in
fact, he would show up my shortcomings
in a vivid and powerful manner. He
played the part of on old, rum-soaked bum
his own creation and he played it well.
It was wonderful to see the way in which
he would arise from his bumliness and
denounce me the moment he left the stage
for not having his hand-props in the right
One night, in St Paul, Minnesota, the
star discharged me for missing "crashes,"
and telling him to retire to the " Cimmerian
depths of Hades." I didn't classicise
the phrase, but gave it out to him in strong
318 A Man Adrift
Saxon. I was beginning to be tired of
the whole business. A man can't hold hot
iron for ever. But the manager interposed
and it ended in my being forgiven after the
But all things have an end, and after
many trials, tribulations, and, I might add,
vituperations, I arrived in New York.
My ideal was realised. I had got to the
cold, muggy East.
XXIII. THE BOWERY
THE Bowery is the main artery of the east
side of New York. Along it move the
people who dwell in poverty. It is the
promenade of the doomed the breathing
spot for those that live in the gloom.
The atmosphere seems charged with
something that no one shall define. The
people possess a grim sense of humour,
but it is the humour of recklessness that
terrible humour that has moved the Paris
gamin to make history. There is a differ-
ence, subtle, but distinct, between the
crowd that moves along the Bowery and
the crowds that move along like places in
Old World great cities.- The difference
lies in the fact that here you will find
a suggestion of blending, of fraternisation
of race. You will find cosmopolitanism.
There is a feverish activity everywhere.
320 A Man Adrift
You are behind the scenes in the theatre
of New World civilisation. Refuse barrels
stand on corners. Here the street is torn
up for repairs. The elevated trains rush
and puff ; horses stumble and clatter ; carts
crunch and rumble along. The shriek of
the locomotive and the jangle of horse-car
bells mingle. Drivers swear.
Here the policeman stalks along swing-
ing his club. He is monarch of all he
surveys the rajah of the street. He has
been known to club people into insensi-
bility and afterwards arrest them for
obstructing his club. He possesses the
contempt for the liberty of the pedestrian
that belongs peculiarly to the American
policeman. As a rule he is an offensive
blackguard and bully who is skilled in the
fine art of levying blackmail. But he is
human after all. He has been known to
give hard-up men money wherewith to get
food and shelter. He is the ornament of
the Bowery. His buttons shine beauti-
fully. His club, though hard, is nicely
A black-eyed, sinewy Italian presides
The Bowery 321
over a fruit-stand. The land of the glorious
sun and the sparkling waters he has left
for ever behind. He is seeking his
fortune in the Cosmopolis. Sliced pine-
apples, oranges, pears and fruits of all kinds
cover his stall. His shirt is open because
of the heat, and he is dreaming, dozing, as
the life whirls by. A tender expression is
softening the lines of his bronzed face.
Memories, perhaps, of the long ago are
awakening within him. Let us draw near !
Ah, he is humming softly an aria from "II
Trovatore ! " He is in the Scala of Milan
listening, perhaps, to Pifferini or Cam-
panini Pifferini, who on some nights sang
like an angel, who on other nights could
not sing at all.
Here is a picture that is beautiful.
Johnnie is making love to Mamie in a
doorway. Johnnie drives an express
waggon for ten dollars a week, and
Mamie well, Mamie works in a cigar
factory. Neither of them has ever lived
outside the East Side of New York. This
may be seen at a glance. The girl's eyes
are cast shyly down, while Johnnie presses
322 A Man Adrift
close up to her, and tells her, perhaps, that
he can marry her next fall, because he
expects a rise in his salary. They are
drinking the first delicious draughts of love.
Heedless are they of the people in the
passing crowd who stare at them.
There saunters the working man, who
labours many hours a day so that he may
eat bread. He wears a starched shirt and
a neat suit of clothes, but you can tell what
he is at a glance. The weary look in the
face and the droop of the shoulders speak
it more plainly than words.
Look at the Irishwoman with the basket.
She is walking along the Bowery to the
store where she gets her provisions for her
family. She has a handkerchief tied
around her head, and a look of shrewd
bargaining is in her face. She might have
dropped here from Galway. Shrewd bar-
gaining and close figuring are the only
methods by which she can make ends meet.
When one has four or five little children at
home, and a husband who earns but a dollar
and a quarter a day, it is necessary to look
closely after the pennies. Again, Pat
The Bowery 323
receives no wages from the contractor
when he has to stop work on account of
the rain. And if he doesn't work harder
than the Italian alongside of him, he is apt
to be fired from his job. Also, he needs ten
cents for his growler of beer every night.
Up comes the ward politician. He is
jolly looking of face and big and tight of
girth. His smile is knowing and satisfied,
for he revels in the fat of the land. A
diamond flashes from his shirt front, his
pockets are filled with money, and his taste
in dress is loud. His heelers get in his
way to catch his smiles. This is the man
who will tell you that money talks. He
knows as much about our present social
system as Herbert Spencer and all the
thinkers and writers upon sociology put
together. He gets the above system down
fine and stands upon it for his own
benefit. His method has the merit
of being simple. So simple that it
needn't be discussed. Still, in a way,
he is a good fellow that is, if things go
his way. He possesses magnetism enough
to become either a successful bunco-steerer,
324 A Man Adrift
or an after-dinner orator who is eloquent in
the interests of trusts. Politics, however,
pay him better. His especial virtue is that
he always buys the drinks. In fact, this
is the chief secret of his simple method of
running the affairs of this great city.
Fakers stand on the corners of the
streets. They are selling laces, hand-
kerchiefs, cheap jewellery, the useful,
though modest, suspender, and other things
too numerous to mention. They thrust the
articles towards you as you pass. Won-
drous bargains may be procured for a no-
thing. So says the faker. And the faker
where does he hail from ? He hails from
all spots. In fact, he is like the passing
crowd. His home is wherever he hangs
his hat. He may be a wily Greek who
has descended in a direct line from the
divinely subtle Socrates ; he may be
a Jew who is a descendant of a black
sheep of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel ;
or he may be a ward politician whose
magnetism has gone back on him, and
who is certainly descended from an Irish
The Bowery 325
Here are the dime museums, where
you can see everything from a mammoth
to a protoplasm on payment of ten cents.
And the gaudy, brilliant fronts of the
cheap theatres. In them you may sit and
gaze while the blood-and-thunder drama
So life goes on in the Bowery.
At night I used to wander along the
Bowery and think over things. I had a
small room in the top of an old house
that lay in a street just off it. This
house had been built in colonial times,
and about it was an odd, desolate air.
I had left the stage long ago. I re-
cognised that I had no talent in that
I used to cook for myself in the garret
where I lived. Whenever I managed to
get a little money I would lay in a stock
of provisions at the delicatessen shop
across the road.
I was getting tired of America. Its
air of blatant, sham democracy disgusted
me. When labouring men were struggling
326 A Man Adrift
for the right to live they were shot and
crushed down by the military with more
mercilessness and for less provocation than
they would be under the most despotic
and ruthless Government in Europe. If
any American takes exception to this
statement I can only ask him if he has
forgotten the affair at Homestead, and
the hideous travesty of justice concerning
the alleged Anarchists in Chicago, and
other like instances. I have known people
to get a year's imprisonment in New York
for saying things that they might" say
with impunity in Hyde Park in London.
In fact, the English policeman would not
allow them to be interrupted while they
were giving forth their ideas. I am not
saying that England is a perfect place
to live in. That, of course, would be
nonsense. But I do say, from personal
and absolute knowledge, that England is
a freer and more democratic country than
I was beginning to long to go back
again to England. After all, it was the
place I had come from. And, above all, I
The Bowery 327
longed to go to London. I wanted to try
my luck there. The idea of being in the
world's great town fascinated me.
I could easily have managed to go to
England as a sailor, but somehow I did
not care for the idea. So I managed to
get myself a steerage ticket.
* * * * *
I was sorry afterwards that I had not
gone as a sailor, for we had heavy weather
crossing the Atlantic, and necessarily the
steerage passengers were kept* below.
Thus the air of the steerage became bad
because of the impossibility of opening up
hatchways and port-holes.
I found there were other sailors beside
myself in the steerage. They were the
crews of three sailing ships. They had
been paid off in New York, and their
idea was to go to Liverpool so that they
could ship to Australia. They were a
jolly lot of lads, and I was glad to be
with them. They brought me into touch
with the old times. One of them especi-
ally was a most interesting character. He
had followed the sea for twenty years, and
328 A Man Adrift
knew of hardly anything save ports and
the ways of ships and grog-shops. His
name was Myles Hand, and he hailed
from Liverpool. He was the ideal
English sailor, the type that Marry at
immortalized. He was well able to sing
and dance, and in person he was well
built of frame, good looking of face, and
had blue, well-opened eyes. The eyes
of sailors are always well opened. The
looking out and the continual watching
When we were near the end of the
voyage I got up a concert, and put Myles'
name first on the programme. The
writing of this programme was a great
bother to me, because of the rolling of
the ship. When it was finished Myles
got some mustard from the steward and
plastered it up. Then he stood off, and
looked at his own name admiringly. I
had put him down for a baritone solo.
At last we were running up the Mersey,
and Liverpool was coming up in the
distance. After years had passed I was
seeing it again. I was glad to see it,
The Bowery 329
even though I was poor as when I left
it. I had gathered nothing but experi-
And the next day I started for London.
XXIV. NO PLACE TO SLEEP
THE hour of midnight tolls out and
London becomes strange and quiet It
becomes at once alive and dead. The
people leave its streets. And soon there
is nothing left but shadows. Gigantic,
weird shadows. Nameless shadows of
the past and present. Monstrous, chang-
In the waters of the old river are re-
flections of a strange and glorious beauty
mingling with shadows foul, black, and
unspeakable. Terrifying shadows. For-
bidding, louring ; and waving and moving
into frightful shapes.
London of the shadow. Formless, dis-
torted London. Silence, blackness and
dim light unite. Everything is vague,
uncertain, and elusive. Here is mystery.
No Place to Sleep 331
Here is darkness and sadness and the
London in shadow.
And you walk on on your footsteps
sounding lone and strange. It is as
if you were in some vast, deserted city
some mighty, ghost-haunted labyrinth.
The great bell breaks forth, marking
the hour of one. Mighty is the tone, full
of menace and sullen power. It voices
the genius of the great English nation
that dominant genius that has crushed
and colonised, that has spread itself
wherever wind blows or water dashes.
Sweeping goes the tone of the great
bell over hovel and palace over the black
sullen waters over destitution and mag-
nificence and misery.
It startles the poor miserables who to-
night have no place to sleep. Those who
are adrift. They sit up on the benches
where they have been lying. They
shudder. The great brazen tone is full
of menace for them.
They are poor human shadows. They
332 A Man Adrift
come from out of the great black, sinister
shadow of the town. They are ghosts
of wrecked lives. There is no one to
help them. There is no one to give
them shelter. There' is no one to give
them warmth or food or love. They are
lost. They are but shadows.
Why have they to starve and shiver in
the midst of plenty ? Over yonder is a
palace wherein a thousand such as these
might be housed. Over yonder is a
church mark you ! a church ! wherein
shelter might be had. What would
Christ say to this?
But Christ is dead.
And you think that if Christ lived now
in this Christian civilisation He would
mayhap be lying yonder starved and
hungry and cold. Yonder under the
shadow of the Sphinx.
Two! The bell has broken forth.
And you turn up from the river and walk
towards the Strand.
How quiet it is, this Strand. In the
daytime it is filled with an ever-flowing
tide of humans. They rush and hurry
No Place to Sleep 333
along, and lounge and idle along. Horses,
vans, and cabs and carts clatter, crunch,
and rumble along. There is hurry and
bustle and excitement.
But now is the Strand dead. It is
under the dominion of the shadows.
No one is to be seen. Nothing is to be
heard but your own footfalls.
You go back to the river. The dark,
strange old river. How black are the
shadows. And you stop and think.
Soon it will be light. Soon it will
be day. But meanwhile are shadows.
Shadows. Working in the loom af fate
Monstrous, changing, weaving.
To be in a great town at night and to
have no place to sleep is hard. You
look around. On all sides are houses
where people are resting comfortably in
bed. But there is no bed for you. So
you wander through the streets aimlessly.
How cold everything is! How cold is
human nature. Here is luxury and com-
fort on all sides. Food in plenty is here,
but you may not touch it. Warmth is
334 A Man Adrift
here. Rest is here. But you must go
on. Ever on. Like one who is doomed
You are an outcast, because you are
guilty of that crime of crimes poverty.
And you begin to think and to wish
many strange things. Aye, you think,
it matters not if you be the dullest
clod. For suffering and loneliness breed
Perhaps you will sit down on a bench,
but you may not sit for long. The
policeman will come and order you to
move on. Move on! Where?
Perhaps you will summon up courage
enough to ask a passer-by for alms.
It is better for you not to do so, how-
ever, for the chance of your getting any-
thing is small. And you may be given
So you move on.
And your life will arise before you.
You will think of the good times you
have had. You will think of your future,
but you will not think of your future long
for the present is too real and pressing.
No Place to Sleep 335
Of course it is all your own fault. It
always is one's own fault when luck goes
against one. It is always one's own fault
for being struck down. You should have
been strong enough to stand up.
You should have done such and such
a thing at such and such a time. You
had no right to back that fellow's bill ;
or you had no right to leave that job be-
cause the foreman bullied you ; or you
but you stop. What is the use of think-
ing in this strain ? It doesn't help you
one bit. You are here in the dark streets,
and no one cares whether you live or
The bells ring out the hours. Time
has for you a significance it never had
before. It will be all right in a hundred
years from now, you think. You will
be dead then, and will not care. You
will have plenty of rest. You will be
allowed to sleep. You will be as fine
a man then as a king. You will really
count for as much.
A hundred years from now. But what
a long time till then!
336 A Man Adrift
And it may be that you will wander
by the palace where lives the Queen.
How fine and grand is this palace ! how
spacious must be the rooms ! Herein a
thousand like you might sleep. Can it
be, you will think, that there is a differ-
ence in human blood after all? Philo-
sophers say that there is not, but surely
there must be. Philosophers don't know
everything. Their logic is all very well
when you have wine, a good cigar, and a
bright fire before which to thrust your
feet. But it counts for nothing when you
are hungry, when you have no place to
And it may be that the face of a woman
will arise before you a woman who loved
you in the old days. What would she say
if she saw you in this plight ? Why, her
dear heart would break. She would take
you to her arms, unkempt and begrimed
though you are. She would kiss you,
and cheer you up, and make you feel a
man again. Dear, sweet love of the fine
old days !
But she is dead.
No Place to Sleep 337
And so you go on and on, and listen
to the bells as they strike the hours.
They are the only friends you have, cold
though their voices are, for they do not
blame you for being unfortunate as man
blames you. No, they pay no heed. You
are the same to them as any other man.
They are impartial. And of all things
misfortune loves impartiality. It is a finer
thing than sympathy.
Dear old bells ! I love them, for it has
been my lot to wander at dead of night
through a great city because I had no
money to pay for a bed. And I assert
that no man knows what it is without
he has experienced it. I have heard
sympathetic, well-off people talk feelingly
of the hardships of the poor. I have
heard them in drawing-rooms.
Yes, these people talk, but they don't
know what they are talking about. And
they are not really sympathetic with the
poor. They only think they are. No
one has any real sympathy with the poor
but the poor. There is something in class
after all. If you are a tramp and a gaol-
338 A Man Adrift
bird, it is better for you to chum in wit>
tramps and gaol-birds. They won't patro
nise you and hurt your feelings. Yes-
class is the thing. Keep to your class.
Sometimes it is said that low-down, un
fortunate people don't realize to the ful
the degradation of their lives.
This is a lie. These poor people do
realize their degradation. They realize
that they are dogs and slaves, but their
way of saying that they know they are
dogs and slaves is not what is called an
elegant way. It is not a drawing-room
way. It is the way that smacks of the
slum, and the foul alley, and the gaol, and
the gutter. And, after all, one way of
saying the same thing is much the same
as another way. There isn't as big a
difference between illiterate and literate
people as is generally supposed. Illiterate
people are on the whole more intelligent
than literate people because they are
brought more in touch with the iron facts
Yes, the poor homeless man who walks
the streets at night is forced to think, even
No Place to Sleep 339
if he be ever such a clod. And he is
forced to think hard. And he knows
more about what walking the streets
means than even the most sympathetic
upholder of charitable organisations.
A word as to charitable organisations.
They are no good. At least, I, who
have had need of them, have found them
to be no good. And the proof of the
pudding is in the eating.
Yes, I assert that they are no good.
This statement is sweeping but listen to
a cold fact. If you are hungry and
homeless, and apply to one of them for
relief from misery they will do nothing
for you. I know what I am talking about,
for I have applied to them.
Of course, there is an excellent reason
for their not helping the destitute, just as
there is an excellent reason for everything.
The destitute man may not have a satis-
factory pedigree ; he may be a criminal ;
he may be undeserving ; he may be just
a hair's-breadth beyond their alleged scope
of action. Again, he may not possess a
spotless reputation. To get help from a
340 A Man Adrift
charitable organisation you must possess
a spotless reputation. You must be good
and -worthy, and able to stand searching
And, above all, you must be able to fast
and do without sleep for a month after
Still, it is an ill wind that blows nobody
good. The charity organisations provide
fat salaries for the officials who run them.
If you are ever destitute, steer clear of
them ; for if they do take you in and give
you a piece of bread, they will take more
than the worth of it out of you. It is
much better for you to go out on the
They talk of the cloven hoof of wicked-
ness, but I tell you it is as nothing compared
with the iron heel of organised charity.
No, if a man ever asks you for four-
pence for his night's lodging, give it to
him if you can. Even though you feel
almost sure that he'll go and get a drink
with it. Supposing he does. What then ?
Doesn't the poor chap need a drink to
cheer him up a little? See, he is dirty
No Place to Sleep 341
and hungry and half-starved and badly
clothed. He is worse off than a homeless
dog. No one has any use for him. But
remember that he has feelings, that he has
a heart, that he has red blood just like you
have. He may have been a man who
once held a good position. Or he may
have but never mind what he was. It
is what he is. He is a man who needs
help. Christ would have helped him and
asked no questions. Do thou likewise.
People often say than any man can get
work if he wishes to work. This is false.
The army of unemployed increases day by
day. I am not going to argue as to why
this is. I only state a fact.
No, give the poor fellow fourpence, and
give him the price of a drink if you can
spare it. And you will be doing an act of
which Christ would have approved.
The hardest time of all for a homeless
man, who is tramping the dark streets,
is at about half-past two in the morning.
Then everything is dead quiet. The city
sleeps. Its great rumble has gone down
altogether. The tramp of the policeman,
342 A Man Adrift
as he goes from house to house trying the
doors, seems to make the loneliness all
the more lonely. The poor outcast must
keep out of the policeman's way, for the
policeman is his enemy.
The policeman is the embodiment of the
humanity of our civilisation.
Aye, this is indeed a hard time for the
outcast. His vitality is at its lowest ebb.
He would give his soul to lie down and
sleep, even on the pavement. But he
may not do so. He must move on.
He must move on.
And at last dawn breaks.
THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ
This book is due on the last DATE stamped below.
3 2106 00053 7024